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Wyider's hand:a novel. 




3 1924 013 515 683 




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WYLDEK'S HAND. 



% Sohl 



B-sr 



J. SHERIDAlSr LE FANU, 

AUTHOR OF "THE HOTTSE BY THE OHURCHTARD," "UNCLE aiLAS," ETC. 



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NEW YORK: 

CARLETOJV, PUBLTSBER.US BROSDWSY. 

1865, 



WYLDER'S HAND, 



CHAPTER I. 



KELATING HO'W I DKOVE THKOUaH THE VILLAGE OF 
GYLINGDEN WITH MARK WTLDBR'S LETTER IN MY VA- 
LISE. 

It was late in autumn, and I was skimming along, 
through a rich English country, in a postchaise, among 
tall hedge-rows gilded, like all the landscape, with the 
slanting beams of sunset. The road makes a long and 
easy descent into the little town of Gylingden, and down 
this we were going at an exhilarating pace, and the jingle 
of the vehicle sounded like sledge-bells in my ears, and 
its swaying and jerking were pleasant and life-like. 

An undulating landscape, with a homely farmstead here 
and there, and plenty of old English timber scattered over 
it, extended mistily to my right ; on the left the road 
is overtopped by a noble forest. The old park of Brandon 
lies there, more than four miles from end to end. These 
masses of solemn and discolored verdure, the faint but 
splendid lights, and long filmy shadows, the slopes and 
hollows — my eyes wandered over them all with that 
strange sense of unreality, and that mingling of sweet 
and bitter fancy, with which we revisit a scene familiar in 
early childhood, and which has haunted a long inter- 
val of maturity and absence, like a romantic reverie. 



6 WYLDER'S HJlJsrJO. 

As I looked through the chaise-windows, every moment 
presented some group, or outline, or homely object, for 
years forgotten; and now, with a strange surprise how 
vividly remembered, and how affectionately greeted ! We 
drove by the small parsonage at the left, with its double 
gable and pretty grass garden, and trim yews and modern 
lilacs and laburnums, backed by the grand timber of the 
park. 

The pretty mill-road, running up through Redman's 
Dell, dank and dark with tall trees, was left behind in 
anotbei: moment ; and we were now traversing the homely 
and antique street of the little town, with its queer shops 
and solid steep-roofed residences. Up Church-street I 
contrived a peep at the old grey tower where the chimes 
hung ; and as we turned the corner a glance at the " Bran- 
don Arms." How very small and low that palatial hos- 
telry of my earlier recollections had grown ! There 
were new faces at the door. It was only two-and-twenty 
years ago, and then I was but eleven years old. 

My journey was from London. When I had reached 
my lodgings, after my little excursion up the Rhine, upon 
my table there lay, among the rest, one letter which I 
viewed with suspicion. I could not in the least tell why. 
It was a broad-faced letter, of bluish complexion, and had 
made inquisition after me in the country — bad asked 
for me at Queen's Folkstone ; and, vised by my cousin, 
had- presented itself at the Friars, in Shropshire, and 
thence proceeded by Sir Harry's direction (there was the 
autograph) to Nolton Hall ; thence again to Ilchester, 
whence my fiery and decisive old aunt sent it straight 
back to my cousin, with a whisk of her pen which seemed 
to say, " How the plague can I tell where the puppy is ? 
— 'tis your business, sir, not mine, to find him out ! " 
And so my cousin despatched it to my head-quarters in 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 7 

town, where from the table it looked up in my face, with 
a broad red seal, and a countenance scarred and marred 
all over with various post-marks, erasures, and transverse 
directions, the scars and furrows of disappointment and 
adventure. 

It had not a good countenance, somehow. The origi- 
nal lines were not prepossessing. The handwriting I 
knew as one sometimes knows a face, without being able 
to remember who the plague it belongs to ; but, still, with 
an unpleasant association about it. I examined it care- 
fully, and laid it down unopened. *» I went through half- 
a-dozen others, and recurred to- it, and puzzled over its 
exterior again, arid again postponed what I fancied would 
prove a disagreeable discovery ; and this happened every 
now and again, until I had quite exhausted my budget 
and then I did open it, and looked straight to the signa- 
ture. 

" Pooh ! Mark Wylder," I exclaimed, a good deal re- 
lieved. 

Mark Wylder ! Yes, Master Mark could not hurt 
me. There was nothing about him to excite the least 
uneasiness ; on the contrary, I believe he liked me as well 
as he was capable of liking anybody, and it was now seven 
years since we had met. 

I had been his working junior in the cause of Wylder 
V. Trustees of Brandon, minor — Dorcas Brandon, his 
own cousin. There was a complicated cousinship among 
these Brandons, Wylders, and Lakes — inextricable in- 
termarriages, which, five years ago, before I renounced 
the bar, I had at my fingers' ends, but which had now re- 
lapsed into haze. There must have been some damnable 
taint in the blood of the common ancestor — a spice of the 
insane and the diabolical. They were an ill-conditioned 
race — that is to say, every now and then there emerged 



8 WYLDER'S HMJVD. 

a miscreant, with a pretty evident vein of madness. There 
was Sir Jonathan Brandon, for instance, who ran his own 
nephew through the lungs in a duel fought in a paroxysm 
of Cencian jealousy; and afterwards shot his coachman 
dead upon the box through his coach-window, and finally 
died in Vienna, whither he had absconded, of a pike- thrust 
received from a sentry in a brawl. 

The Wylders had not much to boast of, even in contrast 
with that wicked line. They had produced their madmen 
and villains, too ; and there had been frequent intermar- 
riages — not very often happy. There had been lawsuits, 
frequent disinheritings, and even worse doings. The Wyl- 
ders of Brandon appear very early in history ; and the ■ 
Wylder arms, with their legend, " resurgam," stand in bold 
relief over the great door of Brandon Hall. So there 
were Wylders of Brandon, and Brandons of Brandon. 
In one generation, a Wylder ill-using his wife and hating 
his children, would cut them all oflf, and send the estate 
bounding back again to the Brandons. The next genera- 
tion or two would amuse themselves with a lawsuit, until 
the old Brandon type reappeared in some bachelor brother 
or uncle, with a Jezebel on his left hand, and an attorney 
on his right, and, presto ! the estates were back again 
with the Wylders. 

Here is Mark Wylder's letter ; — 
" Dear Charles — Of course you have heard of my 
good luck, and how kind poor Dickie — from whom I never 
expected anything — proved at last. It was a great wind- 
fall for a poor devil like me ; but, after all, it was only 
right, for it ought never to have been his at all. I went 
down and took possession on the 4th, the tenants very 
glad, and so they might well be ; for, between ourselves, 
Dickie, poor fellow, was not always pleasant to deal with. 
He let the roof all out of repair, and committed waste be- 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. ' 9 

side in timber he had no right to in life, as I am told ; but 
that don't signify much, only the house will cost me a 
pretty penny to get it into order and furnished. The 
rental is five thousand a-year and some hundreds, and the 
rents can be got up a bit — so Larkin tells me. Do you 
know anything of him ? He saya he did business for your 
uncle once. He seems a clever fellow — a bit too clever, 
perhaps — and was too much master here, I suspect, in 
poor Dickie's reign. Tell me all you can make out about 
him. It is a long time since I saw you, Charles ; I'm 
grown brown, and great whiskers. I met poor Dominick 
— what an ass that chap is — but he did not know me till 
I introduced myself, so I must be a good deal changed. 
Our ship was at Malta when I got the letter. I was sick 
of the service, and no wonder : a lieutenant — and there 
likely to stick all my days. Six months, last year, on the 
African coast, watching slavers — think of that ! I had a 
long yarn from the Viscount — advice, and that sort of 
thing, I do not think he is a year olden than I, but takes 
airs because he's a trustee. But I only laugh at trifles that 
would have riled me once. So I wrote him a yarn in 
return, and drew it uncommon mild. And he has been 
useful to me ; and I think matters are pretty well arranged 
to disappoint the kind intention of good uncle Wylder — the 
brute ; he hated my father, but that was no reason to per- 
secute me, and I but an infant, almost, when he died. 
Well, you know he left Brandon with some charges to my 
cousin Dorcas. She is a superbly fine girl. Our ship 
was at Naples when she was there two years ago ; and T 
saw a good deal of her. Of course it was not to be thought 
of then; but matters are qjiite different now, and the 
Viscount, who is a very sensible fellow in the main, saw it 
at once. You see, the old brute meant to leave her a life 
estate : but it does not amount to that, though it won't 



10 WFLDER'S HAJVn. 

benefit me, for he settled that when I die it shall go to his 
right heirs — that will be to my son, if I ever have one. 
So Miss Dorcas must pack, and turn out whenever I die, 
that is, if I slip my cable first. Larkin told me this — 
and I took an opinion — and found it so ; and the Viscount 
seeing it, arranged the best thing for her as well as me 
would be, we should marry. She is a wide-awake young 
lady, and nothing the worse for that : I'm a bit that way 
myself. And so very little courtship has suiBced. She 
is a splendid beauty, and when you see her you'll say any 
fellow might be proud of such a bride ; and so I am. And 
now, dear Charlie, you have it all. It will take place 
somewhere about the twenty-fourth of next month ; and 
you must come down by the first, if you can. Don't 
disappoint. I want you for best man, maybe ; and besides 
I would like to talk to you about some things they want 
me to do in the settlements, and you were always a 
long-headed fellow : so pray dont refuse. 

" Ever most sincerely, Your old Friena, — 

" Mark Wyldek. 

" P. S. — I stay at the Brandon Arms in the town, until 
after the marriage ; and then you can have a room at the 
Hall, and capital shooting when we return, which will be in 
a fortnight after." 

I can't say that Wylder was an old friend. But he 
was certainly one of the oldest and most intimate acquain- 
tances I had. We had been , for nearly three years at 
school together; and when his ship came to England, 
met frequently ; and twice, when he was on leave, we bad 
been for months together under the same roof; and had 
for some years kept up a correspondence, which first grew 
desultory, and finally, as manhood supervened, died out. 
The plain truth is, I did not very much like him. 



CHAPTER II. 

IN WHICH I ENTER THE DRAWING-ROOM. 

I was now approaching Brandon Hall ; less than ten 
minutes more would set me down at its door-steps. The 
stiff figure of Mrs. Marston, the old housekeeper, pale 
and austere, in rustling black silk (she was accounted a 
miser, and estimated to have saved I dare not say how 
much money in the Wylder family) — kind to me with 
the bread-and-jam and Naples-biscuit-kindness of her 
species, in old times — stood ia fancy at the doorway. 
She, too, was a dream, and, I dare say, her money spent 
by this time. Andfthat other dream, to which she often 
led me, with the large hazel eyes, and clear delicate tints 
— so sweet, so riante,jet so sad ; poor Lady Mary Bran- 
don, dying there — so unhappily mated — a young moth- 
er, and her baby sleeping in long " broderie anglaise " at- 
tire upon the pillow on the sofa, and whom she used to 
show me with a peeping mystery, and her finger to^ her 
smiling lip, and a gaiety and fondness in her pretty face. 
That little helpless, groping, wailing creature was now 
the Dorcas Brandon, the mistress of the old mansion and 
all its surroundings, who was the heroine of the splendid 
matrimonial comproniise which was about to reconcile a 
feud, and avert a possible lawsuit, and for one generation 
at least, to tranquilize the troubled annals of the Bran- 
dons- and Wylders. 

And now the ancient gray chapel, with its stained win- 
dow, and store of old Brandon and Wylder monuments 
among its solemn^clump of elm-trees, flitted by oij, my 



12 W¥ LEER'S HAND. 

right ; and in a moment more we drew up at the great gate 
on the left, not a hundred yards removed from it, and with 
an eager recognition I gazed on the noble front of the old 
manorial house. 

Up the broad straight avenue, with its solemn files of 
gigantic timber towering at the right and the left hand, the 
chaise rolled smoothly, and through the fantastic iron-gate 
of the courtyard, and we drew up handsomely before the 
door-steps, with the Wylder arms carved.above it. 

The sun had just gone down. The blue sliadows of. 
twilight overcast the landscape, and the mists of night 
were already stealing like thin smoke among the trunks 
and roots of the trees. Through the stofie mullions of 
the projecting window at the right, a flush of fire-light 
lo|ked pleasant and hospitable, and on the threshold were 
standing Lord Chelford and my old friend Mark Wylder ; 
a faint perfume of the mildest cheroot declared how they 
had been employed. 

So I jumped to the ground and was greeted very kind 
ly by the smokers. 

" I'm here, you know, in loco parentis ; — my moth- 
er and I keep watch and ward. We allow Wylder, you 
see, to come every day to his devotions. But you are 
not to go to the Brandon Arms — you got my note, didn't 
you?" 

I had, and had come direct to the Hall in consequence. 

Dusty and seedy somewhat, as men are after a journey, 
I chatted with Mark and the noble peer for a few minutes 
at the door, while my valise and et ceteras were lifted in, 
and hurried up the stairs to my room, whither I followed 
them. While I jras at my toilet, in came Mark Wylder 
laughing, as was his wont, and very unceremoniously he 
took possession of my easy-ohair, and threw his leg over 
the arm of it. 



WVLDER'S HAJVZ>. 13 

" I'm glad you're come, Charlie ; you were always a 
good fellow, and I really want a hand here confoundedly. 
I think it will all do very nicely ; but, of course, there's 
a lot of things to be arranged — settlements, you know — 
and I can't make head or tail'of their lingo, and a fellow 
don't like to sign and seal hand over head : and Chelford 
is a very good fellow, of course, and 'all that — but he's 
taking care of Dorcas, you see ; and I might be left in the 
lurch." 

" It is a better way, at all events, Mark,- than Wylder 
versus Trustees of Brandon, minor," said I. 

"Well, things do turn out very oddly; don't they? " 
said Mark, with a sly glance Of complacency, and his hands 
in his pockets. " But I know you'll hold the tiller till I 
get through ; hang me, if I know the soundings, or where 
I'm' going ; and you have the chart by heart, Charlie." 

" I'm afraid you'll find, me by no means so well up now 
as six years ago in " Wylder and Brandon ; " but surely 
you have your lawyer, Mr. Larkin, haven't you ? " 

" To be sure — that's exactly it — he's Dorcas's agent. 
I don't know anything about him, and I do know you — 
don't you see ? A fellow doesn't want to put himself in- 
to the hands of a stranger altogether, especially a lawyer, 
ha, ha ! it wouldn't pay."- 

I did not half like the equivocal ofiSce which my friend 
had prepared for me. If family squabbles were to arise, 
I had no fancy to mix in them ; and I did not want a col- 
lision with Mr. Larkin either ; and, on the whole, not- 
withstanding his modesty, I thought Wylder very well 
able to take care' of himself. There was time enough, 
however, to settle the point. So by this time, being splen- 
did in Erench boots and white vest, and altogether perfect 
and refreshed, I emerged from my dressing-room, Wyl- 
der by my side. 



14 WYLDER'S HAJVJ3. 

We had to get along a dim oak-pannelled passage, and in- 
to a sort of (Bil-de-boeuf, with a lantern light above, from 
■ffhich diverged two other corridors, and a short puzzling 
turn or two brought us to the head of the upper stairs. 
For I, being a bachelor, and treated accordingly, was air- 
ily perched on the third story. 

It was dark by this time, and the drawing-room — a vast 
and grand chamber, with no light but the fire and a pair 
of dim soft lamps near the sofas and ottomans, lofty, and 
glowing with rich tapestry curtains, and pictures, and mir- 
rors, and carved oak, and marble — was already tenanted 
by the ladies. 

Old Lady Chelford, stiff and rich, a Vandyke dowager, 
with a general effect of deep lace, funereal velvet, and 
pearls ; and pale, with dreary eyes, and thin high nose, 
sat in a high-backed carved oak throne, with red cushions. 
To her I was first presented, and cursorily scrutinised 
with a stately old-fashioned insolence, as if I were a can- 
didate footman, and so dismissed. On a low seat, chatting 
to her as I came up, was a very handsome and rather 
singular-looking girl, fair, with alight golden-tinted hair ; 
and a countenance, though then grave enough, instinct with 
a promise of animation and spirit not to be mistaken. 
Could this be the heroine of the pending alliance ? No : 
I was mistaken. A third lady, at what would have been 
an ordinary room's length away, half-reclining on an ot- 
toman, was now approached by Wylder, who presented me 
to Miss Brandon. 

" Dorcas, this is my old friend, Charles de Cresseron. 
You have often heard me speak of him ; and I want you 
to shake hands and make his acquaintance, and draw him 
out — do you see ; for he's a shy youth, and. must be en- 
couraged. 

The lady rose, in a soft floating way ; tall, black-haired 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 15 

— but a blackness with a dull rich shadow through it. I 
had only a general impression of large dusky eyes and 
very exquisite features — more delicate than the Grecian 
models, and with a wonderful transparency, like tinted 
marble ; and a surperb haughtiness, quite unaffected. She 
held forth her hand, which I did little more then touch. 
There was a peculiarity in her "greeting, which I felt a 
little overawing, without exactly discovering in what it 
^consisted ; and it was, I think, that she did not smile. 
She never took that trouble for form's sake, like other 
women. 

So, as Wylder had set a chair for me. I could not avoid 
sitting upon it, though I should much have preferred 
standing, after the manner of man, and retaining my liberty. 



CHAPTER III. 

OTJK DINNER PARTY AT BRANDON. 

I WAS curious. I had heard a great deal of her beauty, 
and it had exceeded all I heard ; so I talked my sublimest 
and brightest chitchat, in my most musical tones, and was 
rather engaging and amusing, I ventured to hope. But 
the best man cannot manage a dialogue alone. Miss 
Brandon was plainly not a person to make any sort of 
exertion towards what is termed keeping up a conversation ■ 
at all events she did not, and after a while the present one 
got into a decidedly sinking condition. An acquiescence, 
a faint expression of surprise, a fainter smile — she con- 
tributed little more, after the first few questions of courtesy 
had been asked, in her low silvery tones, and answered by 
me. To me the natural demise of a tSte-d-tite discourse 



16 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

has always seemed a disgrace. But this apathetic beau- 
ty had either more moral courage or more stupidity than 
I, and was plainly terribly indifferent about the catastro- 
phe. I've sometimes thought my struggles and sinkings 
amused her cruel serenity. 

I told her my early recollections of. Brandon and Gy- 
lingden, and now I remembered her a baby, and said some 
graceful trifles on that theme, which I fancied were likely 
to please. But they were only received, and led to noth- 
ing. 'In a little while in comes Lord Ghelford, always 
natural and pleasant, and quite unconscious of his peerage 

— he was above it, I tljjnk — and chatted away merrily 
with that handsome animated blonde — who on earth, 
could she be ? — and did not seem tlie least chilled in the 
stiff and frosted presence of his mother, but was genial and 
playful even with that Spirit of the i'rozen Ocean, who 
received his affectionate trifling with a sort of smiling, 
though wintry pride and complacency. 

I thought I heard him call the young lady Miss Lake, 
and there rose before me an image of an old General Lake, 
and a dim recollection of some reverse of fortune. He waa 

— I was sure of that — connected with the Brandon fam- 
ily ; and was, with the usual fatality, a bit of a mauvais 
sujet. . He had made away with his children's money or 
squandered his own ; or somehow or another impoverished 
his family not creditably. So I glanced at her, and Miss 
Brandon divined, it seemed, what was passing in my 
mind, for she said : — 

"That is my cousin. Miss Lake, and I think her very 
beautiful — don't you? " 

"Yes, she certainly is very handsome," and I was go- 
ing to say something about her animation and spirit, but 
remembered, just in time, that that line of eulogy would 
hardly have involved a compliment to Miss Brandon. " I 



WYLOER'S HAJVD. 17 

linow her brother, a little — that is Captain Lake — Stan- 
ley Lake ; he's her brother, I fancy ? " 

['Oh?" said the young lady, in that tone which is be- 
tween a. note of inquiry and of surprise. " T§s ; he's her 
brother." 

Alid she paused ; as if something more were expected. 
But a\ that moment the bland tones of Larcom, the solemn 
butler,\ announced the Rev. William Wylder and Mrs. 
Wylder^ and I said — 

" WilWm is an old college friend of mine; " and I 
observed iiim, as he entered, with an affectionate and sad 
sort of inteiest. Eight years had passed since we met last, 
and that is\something at any time. It had thinned my 
simple frienc^'s hair a little, and his face, too, was more 
careworn thai\ I liked, but his earnest, sweet smile was 
there still. Slight, gentle, with something of a pale and 
studious refineii\ent in his face. The same gentle voice, 
with that slight! occasional hesitation, which somehow I 
liked. \ 

And who was ^is little Mrs. William Wylder who 
came in, so homelylof feature, so radiant of good humor, 
so eager and simple,\in a very plain dress, leaning so pleas- 
antly on his lean, long, clerical arm, and who looked round 
with that anticipation of pleasure, and that simple con- 
fidence in a real welcome, which are so likely to insure it ? 
Was she an helpmeet for a black-letter man, who talked 
with the lathers in his daily walks, could extemporise Latin 
hexameters, and dream in Greek. Was she very -jrise, or at 
all learned ? I think her knowledge lay chiefly in the 
matters oi poultry, and puddings, and latterly, of the 
nursery, \|here one treasure lay — a golden-haired little 
boy, four y^ars old. 

When thfe Vicar, I dare say, in a very odd, quaint way, 
made his proposal of marriage, moved thereto assuredly, 



18 WYLDER'S HAJVJO. 

neither by fortune, nor by beauty, to good, merry, little 
Miss Dorothy Chubley. whom nobody was supposed to be 
looking after, and the town had, somehow, set down fiom 
the first as a natural-born old maid — there was a wry 
general amazement ; some disappointment here and tlere, 
with customary sneers and compassion, and a good deal 
of genuime amusement not ill-natured. 

Miss Chubley, all the shopkeepers in the town knew 
and liked, and, in a way, respected her, as " Miss Dolly." 
Old Keverend John Chubley, D. D., who bad be^n in love 
with his wife from the period of his boyhood ; and yet so 
grudging was Fate, had to undergo an engagement of nigh 
thirty years before Hymen rewarded their constancy ; 
being at length made Vicar of Huddelston, snd master of 
church revenues to the amount of three huadred pounds a 
year — had, at forty-five, married his early love, now 
forty-two. 

I remembered the Vicar, but more dimly than his mer- 
ry little wife, though she went first. She made raisin- 
wine, and those curious biscuits that tasted of Windsor 
soap. 

And this Mrs. William Wylder just announced by soft- 
toned Larcom, is the daughter (thera is no mistaking the 
jolly smile and lumpy odd little features, and radiance of 
amiability) of the good Doctor and Mrs. Chubley, so curi- 
ously blended in her loving face. And last comes in old 
Major Jackson, smiling largely, squaring himself, and do- 
ing his courtesies in a florid military style, and plainly 
pleased to find himself in good company and on the eve 
of a good dinner. And so our dinner-list is full. 

The party were just nine — and it is wonderful what a 
row nine well-behaved people will contrive to make at a 
dinner-table. The inferior animals — as ire see them 
caged and cared for, and fed at one o'clock, in those public 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 19 

institutions provided for their maintenance — confine their 
uproar to the period immediately antecedent to their meal, 
and perform the actual process of deglutition with silent 
attention, and only such suckings, lappings, and crunchings, 
as illustrate their industry and content. It is the distinc- 
tive privilege of man to exert his voice during his repast, 
and to indulge also in those specially human cachinnations 
■which no lower creature, except that disreputable Aus- 
tralian biped known as the " laughing jackass," presumes 
to imitate ; and to these vocal exercises of the feasters 
respond the endless ring and tinkle of knife and fork on 
china plate, and the ministering angels in white chokers 
behind the chairs, those murmured solicitations which hum 
round and round the ears of the revellers. 

I don't know how it happened, but Wylder sat beside 
Miss Lake. I fancied he ought to have been differently 
placed, but Miss Brandon did not seem conscious of his 
absence, and it seemed to me that the handsome blonde 
would have been as well pleased if he had been anywhere 
but where he was. There was no liking, though some 
faint glimmerings both of annoyance and embarrassment in 
her face. But in Wylder's I saw a sort of conceited con- 
sciousness, and a certain eagerness, too, while he talked; 
though a shrewd fellow in many ways, he had a secret 
conviction that no woman could resist him. 

" I suppose the world thinks me a very happy fellow, 
Miss Lake ? " he said, with a rather pensive glance of in- 
quiry into that young lady's eyes, as he set down his 
hock-glass. 

" I'm afraid it's a selfish world, Mr. Wylder, and thinks 
very little of what does not concern it." 

" Now, you, I dare say," continued Wylder, not caring 
to perceive the soupgon of sarcasm that modulated her 
answer so musically, " look upon me as a very fortunate 
fellow ? " 



20 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

"You are a very fortunate person, Mr. Wylder; a 
gentleman of very moderate abilities, with no prospects, 
and -without fortune, who finds himself, without any de- 
servings of his own, on a sudden, possessed of an estate, 
and about to be united to the most beautiful heiress in 
England, is, I think, rather a fortunate person." 

"Tou did not always think me so stupid, Miss Lake," 
said Mr. Wylder, showing something of the hectic of 
vexation. 

"Stupid! did I say? Well, you know, we learn by 
experience, Mr. Wylder. One's judgment matures, and 
we are harder to please — don't you think so ? — as we 
grow older." 

" Aye, so we are, I dare say ; at any rate, some things 
don't please us as we calculated. I remember when this 
bit of luck would havd made me a devilish happy fellow 
— twice as happy ; but, you see, if a fellow hasn't his 
liberty, where's the good of money ? I don't know how I 
got into it, but I can't get away now ; and the lawyer 
fellows, and trustees, and all that sort of prudent people, 
get about one, and persuade, and exhort, and they bully 
you, by Jove ! into what they call a marriage of con- 
venience — I forget the French word — you know ; and 
then, you see, your feelings may be very different, and all 
that ; and where's the good of money, I say, if you can't 
enjoy it? " _^ 

And Mr. Wylder looked poetically unhappy, and trun 
died over a little bit of fricandeau on his plate with his fork, 
desolately, as though earthly things had lost their relish. 

" Yes ; I think I know the feeling," said Miss Lake, 
quietly. " That ballad, you know, expresses i't very 
prettily : — " Oh, thou hast been the cause of this anguish, 
my mother ? ' " 

Wylder looked sharply at her, but she did not smile, 



WVLDER'S BJIMD. 21 

and seemed to speak in good faith ; and being somewhat 
thick in some matters, though a cunning fellow, he 
said — 

" Yes ; that is the sort of thing, you know — of course, 
with a difiFerence — a girl is supposed to speak there ; but 
msEi suffer that way, too — though, of course, very likely 
it's more their own fault." 

" It is very sad," said Miss Lake, who was busy with a 
pits. 

" She has no life in her ; she's a mere figurehead ; she's 
awfully slow ; I don't like black hair ; I'm taken by con- 
versation — and all that. There are some men that can 
only really love once in their lives, and never forget their 
first love, I assure you." 

Wylder murmured all this, and looked as plaintive as 
he could without exciting the attention of the people 
over-the-way. 

Mark Wylder had, as you perceiv.e, rather vague notions 
of decency, and not much experience of ladies ; and 
thought he was making just the interesting impression he 
meditated. He was a good deal surprised, then, when 
Miss Lake said, and with quite a cheerful countenance, and 
very quickly, but so that his words stung his ear like the 
prick of a bodkin. 

" Your way of speaking of my cousin, sir, is in the 
highest degree discreditable to you and offensive to me, 
and should you venture to repeat it, I will certainly men- 
tion it to Lady Chelford." 

And so she turned to old Major Jackson at her right, 
who had been expounding a point of the battle of Vittoria 
to Lord Chelford ; and she led him again into action, and 
acquired during the next ten minutes a great deal of cu- 
rious lore about Spanish muleteers and French prisoners, 
together with some particulars about the nature of picket 
duty, and " that scoundrel, Castanos." 



CHAPTER IV. 

IN WHICH WE GO TO THE DRAWING-ROOM AND THE 
PARTY BREAKS UP. 

Wylder was surprised, puzzled, and a good deal in- 
censed — that saucy craft had fired her shot so unexpec- 
tedly across his bows. He looked a little flushed, and 
darted a stealthy glance across the table, but no one he 
thought had observed the manoeuvre. He would have 
talked to ugly Mrs. W. Wylder, his sister-in-law, at his 
left, but she was entertaining Lord Chelford now. He 
had nothing for it but to perform cavalier seul with his 
slice of mutton. He would have liked, at that moment, 
a walk upon the quarter-deck, with a good head-wind 
blowing, and liberty to curse and swear a bit over the 
bulwark. Women are so full of caprice and hypocrisy, 
and " humbugging impudence ! " 

Wylder was rather surly after the ladies had floated 
away from the scene, and he drank his liquor dogged- 
ly. It was his fancy, I suppose, to revive certain senti- 
mental relations which had, it may be, once existed be- 
tween'him and Miss Lake ; and he was a person of that 
combative temperament that magnifies an object in pro- 
portion as its pursuit is thwarted. 

In the drawing-room he watched Miss Lake over his 
cup of cofiee, and after a few words to his fiancee he 
lounged toward the table at which she was turning over 
some prints. 

" Do come here, Dorothy," she exclaimed, not raising 
her eyes, " I have found the very thing." 



WYLDER'S HjUVD. 23 

" What thing ? my dear Miss Lake," said that good lit- 
tle woman, skipping to her side. 

"The story of " Fridolin," and Eetzch's pretty out- 
lines. Sit down beside me, and I'll tell you the story." 

" Oh ! " said the Vicar's wife, taking her seat, and the 
inspection and exposition began ; and Mark Wylder, who 
who had intended renewing his talk with Miss Lake, saw 
that she had foiled him, and stood with a heightened col- 
or and his hands in his pockets, looking confoundedly 
cross and very like an outcast, in the shadow behind. 

After a while, in a pet, he walked away. Lord Chel- 
ford had joined the two ladies, and had something to say 
about German art, and some pleasant lights to throw from 
foreign travel and devious reading, and was as usual in- 
telligent and agreeable; and Mark was still more sore 
and angry, and strutted away to -another table, a long way 
off, and 'tossed over the leaves of a folio of Wouvermana' 
works, and did not see one of the plates he stared at so 
savagely. 

Then he joined a conversation going on between Dor- 
cas Brandon and the Vicar, his brother. He assisted at it, 
but took no" part, and in fact was listening to that other 
conversation which sounded, with its pleasant gabble and 
laughter, like a little musical tinkle of bells in the distance. 
His gall rose, and that distant talk rang in his ears like a 
cool but intangible insult. 

It was dull work. He looked at his watch — the 
brougham would be at the door to take Miss Lake home 
in a quarter of an hour ; so he glided through a second 
drawing-room, and into the hall, where he saw Larcom's 
expansive white waistcoat, and disregarded his advance and 
respectful inclination, and strode into the outer hall or 
vestibule, where were hat-stands, walking-sticks, great 
coats, umbrellas, and the exuviae of gentlemen. 



24 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

Mark clapped on his hat, and rifled the pocket of his 
paletot of his cigar-case and matches, and spluttered a 
curse or two, according to old Nollekens' receipt for easing 
the mind, and on the door-steps lighted his cheroot, and 
became gradually more philosophical. 

In due time the brougham came round with its lamps 
lighted, and Mark, who was by this time placid, greeted 
Price on the box familiarly, after his wont, and asked 
him whom he was going to drive, as if he did not know, 
cunning fellow ; and actually went so far as to give Price 
one of those cheap and nasty weeds, of which he kept a 
supply apart in his case for such occasions of good fellow- 
ship. 

So Mark waited to put the lady into the carriage, and 
he meditated walking a little way by the window and making 
his peace, and there was perhaps some vague vision of 
jumping in afterwards ; I know not. Mark's ideas of 
ladies and of propriety were low, and he was little better 
than a sailor ashore, and not a good specimen of that class 
of monster. 

He walked about the courtyard smoking, looking some- 
times on the solemn front of the old palatial mansion, and 
sometimes breathing a white film up to the stairs. But 
honest Mark forgot that young ladies do not always 
come out quite alone, and jump unassisted into their 
vehicles. And in fact not only did Lord Chelford assist 
the fair lady, cloaked and hooded, into the carriage, but 
the vicar's good-humoured little wife was handed in also, 
the good Vicar looking on, and as the gay good-night and 
leave-taking took place by~the door-steps, Mark drew back, 
like a guilty thing, in silence, and showed no sign but the 
red top of his cigar, glowing like the eye of a Cyclops in 
the dark; and away rolled the brougham, with the two 
ladies, and Chelford and the Vicar went in, and Mark 



WVLDER'S HAJVD. 25 

hurled the stump of his cheroot at Fortune, and delivered 
a fragmentary soliloquy through his teeth; and so, in a 
sulk, without making his adieux, he marched off to his 
crib at the Brandon Arms. 



CHAPTER V. 

IN WHICH MY SLUMBER IS DISTURBED. 

The ladies had accomplished their ascension to the up- 
per regions. The good Vicar had marched off with the^ 
Major, who was by this time unbuckling in his lodgings ; 
and Chelford and I, tSie-d-iite, had a glass of sherry and 
water together in the dra,wing-room before parting. And 
over this temperate beverage I told him frankly the nature 
of the service which Mark Wylder wished me to render 
him ; and he as frankly approved, and said he would ask 
Larkin, the family lawyer, to come up in the morning to 
assist. 

The more I saw of this modest, refined, and manly peer, 
the more I liked him. There was a certain courteous 
frankness, and a fine old English sense of duty perceptible 
in all his serious talk. So I felt no longer like a conspira- 
tor, and was to offer such advice as might seem expedient, 
with the clear approbation of Miss Brandon's trustee. And 
this point clearly settled, I avowed myself a little tired ; and 
lighting our candles at the foot of the stairs, we scaled that 
long ascent together, and he conducted me through the in- 
tricacies of the devious lobbies up stairs to my chamber-door, 
where he bid me good-night, shook hands, and descended 
to his own quarters. 
2 



26 WYLDER'S HAND. 

My room was large and old-fashioned, but snug ; and 
I, beginning to grow very drowsy, was not long in getting 
to bed, where I fell asleep indescribably quickly. In all 
old houses one is of course liable to adventures. There 
was a picture in the outer hall — one of those full-length 
gentlemen of George II. 's time, with a dark peruke flow- 
ing on his shoulders, a cut velvet coat, and lace cravat and 
ruffles. This picture was pale, and had a long chin, and 
somehow had impressed my boyhood with a singular sense 
of fear. The foot of my bed lay towards the window, dis- 
tant at least five-and-twenty feet ; and before the window 
stood my dressing-table, and on it a large looking-glass. 

I dreamed that I was arranging my toilet before this 
glass — just as I had done that evening — when on a sud- 
den the face of the portrait I have mentioned was present- 
ed on its surface, confronting me like a real countenance, 
and advancing towards me with a look of fury ; and at the 
instant I felt myself seized by the throat and unable to stir 
or to breathe. After a struggle with this infernal garotter, 
I succeeded in awaking myself ; and as I did so, I/elt a 
rather cold hand really resting on my throat, and quietly 
passed up over my chin and face. I jumped out of bed 
witb a roar, and challenged the owner of the hand, but re- 
ceived no answer, and heard no sound. I poked up my 
fire and lighted my candle. Everything was as I had left 
it except the door, which was the least bit open. 

In my shirt, candle in hand, I looked out into the pas- 
age. There was nothing there in human shape, but in the 
direction of the stairs the green eyes of a large cat were 
shining. I was so nervous that even " a harmless, neces- 
sary cat " appalled me, and I clapped my door, as if 
against an evil spirit. 

In about half an hour's time, however, I had quite 
worked off the effect of this nightmare, and reasoned my- 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 27 

self into the natural solution that the creature had got on 
mj bed, and lay, as I have been told they will, upon my 
throat, and so, all the rest had followed. 

Not being given to the fear of larvae and lemures, and 
also knowing that a mistake is easily committed in a great 
house like that, and that my visitor might have made one, 
I grew drowsy in a little while, and soon fell asleep again. 

In the morning Mark Wylder was early upon the 
ground. He had quite slept off what he would have called 
the nonsense of last night, and was very keen upon settle- 
ments, consols, mortgages, jointures, and all that dry but 
momentous lore. 

I find a note in my diary of that daji^: — " From half- 
past ten o'clock until two with Mark Wylder and Mr. Lar- 
kin, the lawyer, in the study — dull work — over papers 
and title — Lord Chelford with us now and then to lend 
a helping hand." 

Lawyer Larkin, though he made our work lighter — 
did not make our business, to me at least, any pleasanter. 
Wylder thought him a clever man ; Lord Chelford, a most 
honorable one ; yet there came to me by instinct an un- 
pleasant feeling about him. It was not in any defined way 
— I did not fancy that he was machinating, for instance, 
any sort of mischief in the business before us — but I had 
a notion that he was not quite what he pretended. 

Perhaps his personnel prejudiced me — though I could 
not quite say why. He was a tall, lank man — rather 
long of limb, long of head, and gaunt of face. He wanted 
teeth at both sides, and there was rather a skull-like cavi- 
ty when he smiled — which was pretty often-. His eyes 
were small and reddish, as if accustomed to cry ; and 
when everything went sinoothly were dull and dove-like, 
but when things crossed or excited him, which occurred 
when his own pocket or plans were concerned, they grew 



28 WYLDER'a HAJVD. 

singularly unpleasant, and greatly resembled those of 
some not amiable animal — was it a rat, or a serpent ? 

I might be all in the wrong — and was, no doubt, un- 
reasonable — for he bore a high character, and passed for 
a very gentlemanlike man among the villagers. He was 
also something of a religious light, and had for a time con- 
formed to Methodism, but returned to the Church. He 
had a liking for long sermons, and a sad abhorrence of 
amusements, and sat out the morning and the evening ser- 
vices regularly — and kept up his dissenting connection 
too, and gave them money — and appeared in print, in all 
charitable lists — and mourned over other men's back- 
slidings and calamities in a lofty and christian way, shak- 
ing his tall, bald head, and turning up his pink eyes 
mildly. 

Notwitstanding all which he was somehow unlovely in 
my eyes, and in an indistinct way, formidable. It waa 
not a pleasant misgiving about a gentleman of Larkin's 
species, the family lawyer, who become viscera magno- 
runi'domvm. 



CHAPTER VI. 

IN WHICH DORCAS BRAirDON SPEAKS. 

In answer to " the roaring shiver of the gong " we all 
trooped away to luncheon. Lady Chelford and Dorcas 
and Chelford had nearly ended that irregular repast when 
we entered. My chair was beside Miss Brandon; she 
had breakfasted with old Lady Chelford that morning, and 
this was my first meeting that day. It was not very en- 
couraging. 



WYLDER'S HAJVZ). 29 

People complained that acquaintance made little way 
■with her. That you were, perhaps, well satisfied with your 
first day's progress, but the next made no head-way ; you 
found yourself this morning exactly at the point from 
which you commenced yesterday, and to-morrow would re- 
commence where you started the day before. This is 
very disappointing, but may sometimes be accounted for 
by there being nothing really to discover. It seemed to 
me, however, that the distance had positively increased 
since yesterday, and that the oftener she met me the more 
strange she became. If Dorcas Brandon had been a plain 
woman, I think she would have been voted an impertinent 
bore ; but she was so beautiful that she became an enigma. 
I looked at her as she stood gravely gazing from the win- 
dow. Is it Lady Macbeth ? No ; she never would have 
had energy to plan her husband's career and manage that 
afiair of Duncan. A sultana rather — sublimely egotisti- 
cal, without reverence — a voluptuous and haughty embo- 
diment of indifierence. I paused, looking at a picture, but 
thinking of her, and was surprised by her voice very near 
me. 

" Will you give me just a minute Mr. De Cresseron, 
in the drawing-room, while I show you a miniature ? I 
want your opinion." 

So she floated on and I accompanied her. "I think," 
she said, " you mentioned yesterday, that you remembered 
me when an infant. You refnember my poor mamma, 
don't you, very well?" 

This was the first time she had yet shown any tenden- 
cy, so far as I had seen, to be interested in anything, or to 
talk to me. I seized the occasion, and gave her, as well 
as I could, the sad and pretty picture that remained, and 
a,lways will, in the vacant air, when I think of her, on the 
mysterious retina of memory. 



30 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

On a cabinet near to where she stood was a casket of 
ormolu, which she unlocked, and took out a miniature, 
opened, and looked at it for a long time. I knew very 
well whose it was, and watched her countenance ; for, she 
interested me strangely. I suppose she knew I was look- 
ing at her ; but she showed always a queenlike indiffer- 
ence about what people might think or observe. There 
was no sentimental softening ; but her gaze was such as 
I once saw the same proud and handsome face turn upon 
the dead — pale, exquisite, perhaps a little stern. What 
she read there — what procession of thoughts and images 
passed by — threw neither light nor shadow on her face. 
Its apathy interested me inscrutably. 

At last she placed the picture in my hand, and asked, 

" Is this really very like her ? " 

" It is, and it is not," I said, after a little pause. " The 
features are true : it is what I call an accurate portrait, 
but that is all, I dare say, exact as it is, it would give to 
one who had not seen her a false, as it must an inade- 
quate, idea of the orignal. There is something naive and 
spirituel, and very tender in her face, which he has not 
caught — perhaps it could hardly be fixed in colors." 

" Yes. I always heard, her expression and intelligence 
were very beautiful. It was the beauty of mobility — 
true beauty." 

" There is a beauty of another stamp, equally exquisite, 
Miss Brandon, and perhaps more overpowering." I said 
this in nearly a whisper, and in a very marked way, 
almost tender, and the next moment was amazed at my • 
own audacity. She looked on me for a second or two, with 
her dark drowsy look, and then it returned to the picture, 
which was again in her hand. There was a total want of 
interest in the careless sort of surprise she vouchsafed my 
little sally ; neither was there the slightest resentment. 



I was ridiculously annoyed with myself. The position of 
a shy man, who has just made an unintelligible joke at a 
dinner-table, was not more pregnant with self-reproach 
and embarrassment. 

Upon my honor, I don't think there was anything of 
the rou4 in me. I own I did-feel towards this lady, who 
seemed to me. so singular, a mysteaious interest just begin- 
ning — of that peculiar kind which becomes at last terribly 
absorbing. I was more elated by her trifling notice of me 
than I can quite account for. I think if she had listened 
to me with even the faintest intimation of caring whether 
I spoke in this tone, or not, with even a flash of momenta- 
ry resentment, I might have rushed into a most reprehen- 
sible and ridiculous rigmarole. But She was looking, just 
as .before', at the miniature, as it seemed to me, in fancy 
infusing some of the spirit I had described into the artist's 
record, and she said, only in soliloquy, as it were, "Yes, 
I see — I think I see." 

So there was a pause ; and then she said, without re- 
moving her eyes from the miniature, " You are, I believe, 
Mr. De Cresseron, a very old friend of Mr.' Wylder's. 
Is it not so ? " 

So soon after my little escapade, I did not like the 
question ; but it was answered. There was not the faint- 
est trace of a satirical meaning, however, in her face ; and 
after another very considerable interval, at the end of which 
she shut the miniature in its case, she said, " It was a 
peculiar f»ce, and very beautiful. It is odd how many of 
our family married for love — wild love-matches. My 
poor mother was the last. I could point you out many 
pictures, and tell you stories — my cousin, Rachel, knows 
them all. You know Rachel Lake ? " 

" I've not the honor 'of knowing Miss Lake. I had 
not an opportunity of making her acquaintance yesterday ; 
but I know her brother — so does Wylder." 



32 WYLDER'S HAJVJ). 

" What's that ? " said Mark, who had just come in, and 
was tumbling over a volume of "Punch," at the win- 
dow. 

" I was telling Miss Brandon that we both know Stanley 
Lake," On hearing which, Wylder seemed to discover 
something uncommonly interesting or clever in the illus- 
tration before him ; for he approached his face very near 
to it, in a scrutinising way, and only said, " Oh ? " 

" That marrying for love was a fatality in our family," 
she continued, in the same low tone — too faint, I think, 
to reach Mark. " They were all the most beautiful who 
sacrificed themselves so — they were all unhappy mar- 
riages. So the beaujty of our family never availed it, any 
more than its talents and its courage ; for there were clever 
and witty men, as well as very brave ones, in it. Meaner 
houses have grown up into dukedotns ; ours never prospers. 
I wonder what it is." 

" Many families have disappeared altogether, Miss 
Brandon. It is no small thing, through so many centuries, 
to have retained your ancestral estates, and your preemi- 
nent position, and even this splendid residence of so many 
generations of your lineage." 

I thought that Miss Brandon, having broken the ice, 
was henceforth to be a conversable young lady. But this 
sudden expansion was 'not to last. Ovid tells us, in his 
" Fasti," how statues sometimes surprised people by speak- 
ing more frankly and to the purpose even than Miss 
Brandon, and^traight were cold chiselled marfile again ; 
and so it was with that proud, cold chef-d'oeuvre of tinted 
statuary. 

The Princess by this time was seated on the ottoman, 
and chose to read a letter, thus intimating, I suppose, that 
my audience was at an end ; so I took jip a book, put it 
down, and then went and looked over Wylder's shoulder, 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 33 

and made my criticisms — not very novel, I fear — upon 
the pages he turned over ; and I am sorry to say I don't 
think he heard much of what I was saying, for he sudden- 
ly came out with — 

" And where is Stanley Lake now, do you know ? " 

" I saw him in town — only for a moment though — 
about a fortnight ago ; he was arranging, he said, about 
selling out." 

" Oh ! retiring ; and what does he propose doing 
then? " asked Wylder, without raising his eyes from his 
book. He spoke in a sort of undertone, like a man who 
does not want to be overheard. 

" I have not an idea. I don't think he's fit for many 
things. He knows something of horses, I believe, and 
something of play.'^ 

" But he'll hardly make out a living that way," said 
Wylder, with a sort of sneer or laugh. 

" I fancy he has enough to live upon, without adding 
to it, however," I said. 

Wylder leaned back in his low chair, with his hands 
stuffed in his pockets, and the air of a man trying to look 
unconcerned, but both annoyed and disconcerted neverthe- 
less. 

" I tell you what, Charlie, between yOu and me, that 
fellow, Stanley, is a d — d bad lot. I may be mistaken, 
of course ; he's always been very civil to me, butwe don't 
like one another ; and I don't think I ever heard him say 
a good word of any one ; I dare say he abuses you and 
me, as he does every one else." 

" Does he ? " I said. " I was not aware he had that 
failing." 

" Oh, yes. He does not stick at trifles. Master Stanley. 
He's about the greatest liar, I think, I ever met with," 

and he laughed angrily. 

2« 



b4 WYJCDER'S sajvd. 

I happened at that moment to raise my eyes, and I saw 
Dorcas's face reflected in the mirror; her -back was to- 
wards us, and she held the letter in her hand as if reading 
it, but her large eyes were looking over it, and on us, in 
the glass, with a gaze of strange curiosity. Our glances 
met in the mirror ; but her's remained serenely undis- 
turbed, and mine dropped and turned away hastily. I 
wonder whether she heard us. I do not know. Some 
people are "miraculously sharp of hearing. 

Wylder was leaning on his elbow, with just the tip of 
his thumb to his teeth, with a vicious character of biting 
it, which was peculiar to him when anything vexed him 
considerably, and glancing sharply this way and that — 

"You know," he said, suddenly, " we are a sort of 
cousins ; his mother was a Brandon — ■ a second cousin of 
Dorcas's — no, of her father's — I don't know exactly 
how- He's a pushing fellow, one of the coolest hands I 
know ; but I don't see that I can be of any use to him, or 
why the devil I should. I say, old fellow, come out and 
have a weed, will you? " 

I raised my eyes. Miss Brandon had left the room, 
I don't know that her presence would have prevented his 
invitation, for Wylder's wooing was certainly of the cool- 
est. So forth we sallied, and under the autumnal foliage, 
in the cool amber light of the declining evening, we en- 
joyed our cheroots ; and with them, Wylder his thoughts ; 
and I, the landscape and the whistling of the birds ; for 
we waxed Turkish and taciturn over our tobacco. 



CHAPTER VII. 

kblating how a londok gentleman appeared in 
Redman's dell. 

There is, near the Hall, a pretty glen, called Redman's 
Dell, very steep, with a stream running at the bottom of 
it, but so thickly -wooded that in summer you can only 
now and then catch a glimpse of the water gliding beneath 
you. Deep in this picturesque ravine, buried among the 
shadows of tall old trees, runs the narrow mill-road, 
which lower down debouches on the end of the village 
street. There, in the transparent green shadow, stand 
the two mills — the old one with, A. D. 1679, and the 
Wylder arms, and the eternal " resurgam " projecting 
over its doors ; and higher up, on a sort of platform, the 
steep bank rising high behind it, with its towering old 
wood overhanging and surrounding, stands an old and small 
two-storied brick and timber house ; and though the sun 
does not often glimmer on its windows, it possesses an air 
of sad, old-world comfort — a little flower-garden lies in 
front, with a paling round it. But not every kind of flowers 
will grow there, under the lordly shadow of the elms and 
chestnuts. 

This sequestered tenement bears the name of Redman's 
Farm ; and its occupant was that Miss Lake whom I had 
met last night at Brandon Hall, and whose pleasure it was 
to live here in independent isolation. 

There she is now, busy in her tiny garden, with the 
birds twittering about her, and the yellow leaves falling ; 
and her thick gauntlets on her slender hands. This young 
lady's little Eden, though encompassed with the solemn 



36 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

sylvan cloister of nature's building, and vocal with sounds 
of innocence — the songs of birds, and sometimes those of 
its young mistress — was no more proof than the Meso- 
potamian haunt of our first parents against the intrusion 
of darker spirits. So, as she worked, she lifted up her 
eyes, and beheld a rather handsome young man standing 
at the little wicket of her garden, with his gloved hand 
on the latch. A man of fashion — a town man — his 
dress bespoke him : smooth cheeks, light brown curling 
moustache, and eyes peculiar both in shape and color, 
and something of elegance of finish in his other features, 
and of general grace in the coup d' ceil, struck one at a 
glance. He was smiling silently and slily on Rachel, 
who, with a little cry of surprise, said — 

" Oh, Stanley! is it you? " 

And before he could answer, she had thrown her arms 
about his neck and kissed him two or three times. 
Laughingly, half-resisting, the young man waited till her 
enthusiastic salutation was over, and with one gloved hand 
caressingly on her shoulder, and with the other smoothing 
his ruffled moustache, he laughed a little more, a quiet 
low laugh. 

"Yes, Radie, you see I've found you out;" and his 
eye wandered, still smiling oddly, over the front of her 
quaint habitation. 

" And how have you been, Radie ? " 

" Oh, very well. No life like a gardener's — early 
hours, work, air, and plenty of quiet." And the young 
lady laughed. 

" And what do you call this place? " 

" ' The Happy Valley,' /call it. Don't you remem- 
ber ' Rasselas ? ' " 

" No," he said; looking round him; " I don't think I 
was ever there." 



WVLDER'S HAJVV. 37 

" You horrid dunce ! — it's a book, but a stupid one 
— so no matter," laughed Miss Rachel, giving him a lit- 
tle slap on the shoulder with her slender fingers. 

" It's a confounded deal more like the ' Valley of the 
Shadow of Death, in Pilgrim's Progress' — you remem- 
ber — that old Tamar used to read to us in the nursery,'' 
replied Master Stanley, who had never enjoyed being 
quizzed by his sister. 

" If you don't like my scenery, come in, Stanley, and 
admire my decorations. You must tell me all the news, 
and I'll show you my house, and amaze you with my 
house-keeping. Dear me how long it is since I've seen 

you." 

So she led him in by the arm to her tiny drawing- 
room ; and he laid his hat and stick, and grey paletot, on 
her little marquetrie-table, and sat down, and looked lan- 
guidly about him, with a sly smile, like a man amused. 

" You are very oddly housed, Radio." 

" I like it," she said quietly, also with ar glance round 
her homely drawing-room. 

" What do you call this, your boudoir or parlor ? " 

" I call it my drawing-room, but i'ts anything you 
please." 

" What very odd people our ancestors were," he mused 
on. " They lived, I suppose, out of doors like the cows, 
and only came into their sheds at night, when they could 
not see the absurd ugliness of the places they inhabited. 
Lots of rats, I fancy. Radio, behind that wainscoting? 
What's that horrid work of art against the wall? " 

" A shell-work cabinet, dear. It is not beautiful I al- 
low. If I were strong enough, or poor old Tamar, I 
should have put it away ; and now that you are here, 
Stanley, I think I'll make you carry it out to the lobby 
forme." 



38 WVLDER'S HAND. 

" I should not like to touch it, dear Radie. And pray 
how do you amuse yourself here ? How on earth do you 
get over the day, and, worse still, the evenings ? " 

" Very well — well enough. I make a very good sort 
of a nun, and a capital housemaid. I work in the gar- 
den, I mend my dresses, I drink tea, and when I choose 
to be dissipated, I play and sing for old Tamar — why did 
not you ask how she is ? I do believe, Stanley, you care 
for no one, but " (she was going to say, yourself, she said 
instead, however, but) " perhaps, the least in the world 
for me, and that not very wisely," she continued, a little 
fiercely, " for from the moment you saw me, you've done 
little else than try to disgust me more than I am with my 
penury and solitude. What do you mean ? You always 
have a purpose — will you ever learn to be frank and 
straightforward, and speak plainly to those whom you 
ought to trust, if not to love ? What are you driving at, 
Stanley?" 

He looked up with a gentle start, like one recovering 
from a reverie, and said, with his yellow eyes fixed for a 
moment on his sister, before they dropped again to the 
carpet, 

" You're miserably poor, Rachel : upon my word, I 
believe you haven't clear two hundred a year. I'll drink 
some tea, please, if you have got any, and it isn't too much 
trouble ; and it strikes me as very curious you like living 
in this really very humiliating state." 

" I don't intend to go out for a governess, if that's what 
you mean ; nor is there any privation in living as I do. 
Perhaps you think I ought to go and housekeep for you." 

" Why — ha, ha ! — I really don't know, Radio, where I 
shall be. I'm not of any regiment now." 

"Why, you have not sold out?" She flushed and 
suddenly grew pale, for she was afraid something worse 



WYLDER'S HJijXn. 



39 



might have happened, having no great confidence in her 
brother. 

" I have sold my commission." 

She looked straight at him with large eyes and compress- 
ed lips and nodded her head two or three times, just mur- 
muring, " Well i well! well!" 

" Women never understand these things. The army is 
awfully expensive — I mean, of course, a regiment like 
ours ; and the interest of money is better to me than my 
pay ; and see, Rachel, there's no use in lecturing me — so 
don't let us qnarrel. We're not very rich, you and I ; 
and we each know our own affairs, you yours, and 1 miae, 
best." 

There was something by no means pleasant in his coun- 
tenance when his temper was stirred, and a little thing 
sometimes suflaced to do so. Rachel treated him with a 
sort of deference, a little contemptuous perhaps, such as 
spoiled children receive from indulgent elders ; and she 
looked at him steadily, with a faint smile and arched brows, 
for a little while, and an undefinable expression of puzzle, 
and curiosity. 

" You are a very amusing brother — if not a very 
chary or a very useful one, Stanley." 

She opened the door, and called across the little hall 
into the homely kitchen of the mansion. 

" Tamar, dear. Master Stanley's here, and wishes to see 
you." 

" Oh ! yes, poor dear old Tamar ; ha, ha 1 " says the 
gentleman, with a gentle little laugh, " I suppose she's as 
frightful as ever, that worthy woman. Certainly she is 
awfully like a ghost. I wonder, Radie, you're not afraid 
of her at night in this cheerful habitation. / should, I 
know." 

And just then old Tamar opened the door. I must al- 



40 WYLDER'S HAJVn. 

low there was something very unpleasant about that wor- 
thy old woman ; and not being under any "personal obliga- 
tions to her, I confess my acquiescence in the spirit of 
Captain Lake's remarks. 

She was certainly perfectly neat and clean, but white 
predominated unpleasantly in- her costume. Her cotton 
gown had once had a pale pattern over it, but wear and 
washing had destroyed its tints, till it was no better than 
white, with a mottling of grey. She had a large white 
kerchief pinned with a grisly precision across her breast, 
and a white linen cap tied under her chin, fitting close to 
her head, like a child's night-cap, and destitute of border 
or frilling about the face. It was a dress very odd and 
unpleasant to behold, and suggested the idea of an hospi- 
tal, or a mad house, or death, in an undefined way. 

She was past sixty, with a mournful puckered and 
pufiy face, tinted all over with a thin gamboge and burnt 
sienna glazing; and very blue under the eyes, which 
showed a great deal of their watery whites. This old wo- 
man had in her face and air, along with an expression of 
suspicion, and anxiety, a certain character of decency and 
respectability, which made her altogether a puzzling and 
unpleasant apparition. 

Being taciturn and undemonstrative, she stood at the 
door, looking with as pleased a countenance as so sad a por- 
trait could wear, upon the young gentleman. 

He got up at his leisure and greeted " old Tamar," 
with his sleepy, amused sort of smile, and a few trite 
words of tindness. So Tamar withdrew to prepare tea ; 
and he said, all at once, with a sudden accession of energy, 
and an unpleasant momentary glare in his eyes — 

" You know, Rachel, this sort of thing is all nonsense. 
You cannot go on living like this ; you must marry — 
you shall marry. Mark Wylder is down here, and he 



WTLDER'S HAJVD 41 

has got an estate and a house, and it is time he should 
marry you." 

""Mark Wylder is here to marry my cousin, Dorcas ; 
and if he had no such intention, and were as free qs you 
are, and again to urge his foolish suit upon his knees, 
Stanley, I would die rather than accept him." 

" It was not always so foolish a suit, Radie," answered 
her brother, his eyes once more upon the carpet. " Why 
should not he do as well as another? You liked him 
well enough once.' 

The young lady colored rather fiercely. 

" I am not a girl of seventeen now, Stanley ; and — 
and, besides, I hate him." 

" What d — d nonsense ! I really beg your pardon, 
Eadie, but it is precious stuff. You are quite unreason- 
able ; you've no cause to hate him ; he dropped you be- 
cause you dropped him. It was only prudent ; he had 
not a guinea. But now it is different, and he must mar- 
ry you." 

The young lady stared with a haughty amazement upon 
her brother. 

" I've made up my mind to speak to him ; and if he 
won't I promise you he shall leave the country," said the 
young man gently, just lifting his yellow eyes for a second 
with another unpleasant glare. 

" I almost think you're mad, Stanley ; and if you do 
anything so insane, sure I am you'll rue it while you live ; 
and wherever he is I'll find him out, and acquit myself, 
with the scorn I owe him, of any share in a plot so un- 
speakably mean and absurd." 

" Brava, brava ! you're a heroime, Radie ; and why 
the devil," he continued, in a changed tone, "do you ap- 
ply those insolent terms to what I purpose doing? " 

" I wish I could find words strong enough to express 



42 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

my horror of your plot — a plot every way disgusting. 
You plainly know something to Mark Wylder's discredit ; 
and you mean, Stanley, to coerce him by fear into a mar- 
riage with your penniless sister, who hates him. Give 
up every idea of it this moment. Has it not struck you 
that Mark Wylder may possibly know something of you, 
you would not have published ? " 

" I don't think he does. What do you mean ? " 

"On my life, Stanley, I'll acquaint Mr. Wylder this 
evening with what you meditate, and the atrocious liber- 
ty you presume to take with my name — unless you 
promise, upon your honor, now and here, to dismiss for 
ever the odious and utterly resultless scheme." 

Captain Lake looked very angry after his fashion, but 
said nothing. He could not at any time have very well 
defined his feelings toward his sister, but mingling in. 
them, certainly, was a vein of unacknowledged dread, 
and, shairi say, respect. He knew she was resolute, 
fiercfe of will, and prompt in action, and not to be bullied. 

" There's more in this, Stanley, than you care to tell 
me. You have not troubled yourself a great deal about 
me, you know ; and I'm no worse off now than any time 
for the last three years. You've not come down here 
on my account — that is, altogether ; and be your plans 
what they may, you shan't mix my name in them ; and 
I tell you again, Stanley, unless you promise, upon your 
honor, to forbear all mention of my name, I will write 
this evening to Lady Chelford, apprising her of your 
plans, and of my own disgust and indignation ; and re- 
questing her son's interferem;^ Do you promise ? " 

" There's no such Aas^e, Radio. I only mentioned it. 
If you don't like it, of course it can lead to nothing, and 
there's no use in my speaking to Wylder, and so there's 
an end of it." 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 



43 



" There may he some use, a purpose in -which neither 
my feelings nor interests have any part. I venture to say, 
Stanley, your plans are all for yourself. You want to 
extort some advantage from Wylder ; and you think, in 
his present situation, about to marry Dorcas, you can use 
me for the purpose. Thank Heaven ! sir, you committed 
for once the rare indiscretion of telling the truth ; and 
unless you make me the promise I require, I will take, 
before evening, ^uch measures as will completely excul- 
pate me. Once again, do you promise ? " 

" Yes, Radio ; ha, ha ! of course I promise." 

" Upon your honor ? " 

" Upon my honor — Mere." 

" I believe, you gentlemen dragoons observe that^ath 
— I hope so. If you choose to break it you may give me 
some trouble, but you shan't compromise me. And now, 
Stanley, one word more. I fancy Mr.' Wylder is a reso- 
lute man — ^none of the Wylders wanted courage." 

Captain Lake was by this time smiling his sly, sleepy 
smile upon his French boots. 

" If you have formed any plan which depends upon 
frightening him, it is a desperate one. All I can tell you, 
Stanley, is this, that if I were a man, and an attempt made 
to extort from me any sort of concession by terror, I would 
shoot the miscreant who made it through the head, like a 
highwayman." 

" What the devil are you talking about ? " said he. 

" About your danger,^' she answered. " For once in 
your life listen to reason. Mark Wylder is as prompt as 
you, and has ten times your nerve and sense ; you are more 
likely to have committed yourself than he. Take care ; 
he may retaliate your threat by a counter move more 
dreadful. I know nothing of your doings, Stanley — 
Heaven forbid ! but be warned, or you'll rue it." 



44 WYLDER'S HAjyD. 

" Why, Radie, you know nothing of the world. Do 
you suppose I'm quite demented ? Ask a gentleman for 
his estate, or his watch, because I know something to his 
disadvantage ! Why, ha, ha ! dear Radie, every man who 
has ever been on terms of intimacy with another must know 
things to his disadvantage, but no one thinks of telling 
them. I don't affect to be angry, or talk romance and 
heroics, because you fancy such stuff; but I assure you 
— when will that old woman give me a cup of tea ? — I 
assure you, Radie, there's nothing in it." 

Rachel made no reply, but she looked steadfastly and 
uneasily upon the enigmatical face and downcast eyes of 
the young man. 

" Well, I hope so," she said at last, with a sigh, and a 
slight sense of relief. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

IN WHICH CAPTAIN LAKE TAKES HIS HAT AND STICK. 

So the young people sitting in the little drawing-room 
of Redman's farm pursued their dialogue ; Rachel Lake 
had spoken last, and it was the Captain's turn to speak 
next. 

"Do you remember Miss Beauchamp, Radie?" he 
asked, rather suddenly, after a very long pause. 

" Miss Beauchamp ? Oh ! to be sure ; you mean little 
Caroline ; yes, she must be quite grown up by this time 
— five years — she promised to be pretty. What of 
her ? " 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 



45 



Bachel, very flushed and agitated still, was now trying 
to speak as usual, 

"She is good-looking — a little coarse some people 
think," resumed the young man ; " but handsome ; black 
eyes — black hair — rather on a large scale, but certainly 
handsome. A style I admire rather, though it is not very 
refined, nor at all classic. But I like her, and I wish 
you'd advise me." He was talking, after his wont, to the 
carpet. 

" Oh? " she exclaimed, with a gentle sort of derision. 

" Tou mean," he said, looking up for a moment, with a 
sudden stare, " she has got money. Of course she has '- 
I could not afford to admire her if she had not ; but I see 
you are not just now in a mood to trouble yourself about 
my nonsense — we can talk about it to-morrow ; and tell 
me now, how do you get on with the Brandon peo- 
ple?" 

Rachel was curious, and would, if she could, have re- 
called that sarcastic "oh" which had postponed the story ; 
but she was also a little angry, and with anger there was 
pride, which would not stoop to ask for the revelation 
which he chose to defer ; so she said, ' ' Dorcas and I are 
very good friends ; but I don't know very well what to 
make of her. She is either absolutely uninteresting, or 
very interesting indeed, and I can't say which." 

" Does she like you ? " he asked. 

' ' I really don't know. She tolerates me, like every- 
thing else ; and I don't flatter her ; and we see a good deal 
of one another upon those t^ms, and I have no complaint 
to make of her. She has some aversions, but no quarrels; 
and has a sort of laziness — mental, bodily, and moral — 
that is sublime, but provoking ; and sometimes I admire 
her, and sometimes I despise her ; and I do not yet know 
which -feeling is the juster." 



46 WYLDER'S HAJVB. 

" Surely she is ■woman enough to he fussed a little about 
her marriage ? " 

" Oh, dear, no ! she takes the whole affair with a queen- 
like and supernatural indifference. She is either a fool or 
a very great philosopher, and there is something grand in 
the serene obscurity that envelopes her," and Rachel 
laughed a very little. 

"I must, I suppose, pay my respects; but to-morrow 
will be time enough." 

Old Tamar had glided in while they were talking, and 
placed the little tea equipage on the table unnoticed, and 
the captain was sipping his cup of tea, and inspecting the 
pattern, while his sister amused him. 

" This place, I suppose, is confoundedly slow, is not it ? 
Do they entertain the neighbors ever at Brandon ? " 

" Sometimes, when old Lady Chelford and her son are 
staying there." 

" But the neighbors can't entertain them, I fancy, or 
you. What a dreary thing a dinner party made up of such 
people must be — like " ^sop's Fables," where the cows 
and sheep converse. 

" And sometimes a wolf or a fox,'' she said. 

" Well, Radie, I know you mean me ; but as you wish it, 
I'll carry my fangs elsewhere; — and what has become of 
Will Wylder ? " 

" Oh ! he's in the Church ! " 

"Quite right — the only thing he was fit for;" and 
Captain Lake laughed like a man who enjoys a joke slily. 
" And where is poor Billy quartered? " 

" Not quite half a mile away ; he has got the vicarage 
of Naunton Friars." 

"Oh, then, Will is not quite such a fool as we took him 
for." 

" It is worth just £180 a year ; but he's very far 
from a fool." 



WYLDER'S HAJ^D. 



47 



" Yes, of course, he knows Greek poets and Latin fa- 
thers, and all the rest of it. I dare say he's the kind of 
fellow you'd like very well, Radie." And his sly eyes 
had a twinkle in them which seemed to say, " perhaps I've 
divined your secret." 

" And so I do, and I like his wife, too, very much." 

" His wife ! So William has married on ,£180 a 
year ; " and the Captain laughed quietly, but very pleas- 
antly again. 

" On a very little more, at all events ; and I think 
they are about the happiest, and I'm sure they are the 
best people in this part of the world." 

" Well, Radie, I'll see you to-morrow again. You 
preserve your good looks wonderfully. I wonder you 
haven't become an old woman here." 

And he kissed her, and went his way, with a slight 
wave of his hand, and his odd smile, as he closed the little 
garden gate after him. 

Rachel was flushed, and felt oddly ; a little stunned and 
strange, although she had talked lightly and easily enough. 

" I forgot to ask him where he is staying; the Bran- 
don Arms, t suppose. I don't at all like his coming 
down here after Mark Wylder ; what can he mean. He 
certainly never would have taken the trouble for me. 
What can he want of Mark Wylder ? I think he knew 
old Mr. Beauchamp. He may be a trustee, but that's 
not likely ; Mark Wylder was not the person for any 
such office. I hope Stanley does not intend trying to ex- 
tract money from him ; anything rather than that degrada- 
tion — than that villany. Stanley was always impracti- 
cable, perverse, deceitful, and so foolish with all his cunning 
and suspicion — so very foolish. Poor Stanley ! He's so 
unscrupulous ; I don't know what to think. He said he 
could force Mark Wylder to leave the country. It must 



48 WYLDER'S HAJ^D. 

be some bad secret. If he tries and fails, I suppose he 
will be ruined. He will blast himself, and disgrace all 
connected with him; and it is quite useless speaking to 
him." 

Perhaps if Rachel Lake had been in Belgravia, leading 
a town life, the matter would have taken no such dark 
coloring and portentous proportions^ But living in a 
small old house, in a dark glen, with no companion, and 
little to occupy her, it was different. 

She looked down the silent way he had so lately taken, 
and repeated, rather bitterly: "My only brother! my 
only brother ! my only brother ! " 

That young lady was not quite a pauper, though she 
may have thought so. She had just that symmetrical 
three hundred pounds a year, which the famous Dean of 
St Patrick's tells us he so " often wished that he had 
clear." She had had some money in the Funds besides, 
still more insignificant ; but this her brother Stanley had 
borrowed and begged piecemeal, and the Consols were no 
more. But though something of a nun in her way of life, 
there was no germ of the old maid in her, and money was 
not often in her thoughts. It was not a bad dot ; and 
her brother Stanley had about twice as much, and there- 
fore was much better off than many a younger son of a 
duke. Old General Lake had once had more than ten 
thousand pounds a year, and lived, until the crash came, 
in the style of a vicious old prince.' It was a great break 
up, and a worse fall for Rachel than for her brother, when 
the plate, coaches, pictures, and " all the valuable effects" 
of old Tiberius went to the hammer, and he himself van- 
ished from his clubs and other haunts, and lived only — 
a thin intermittent rumor — surmised to be in gaol, or in 
Guernsey, and quite forgotten soon, and a little later ac- 
tually dead and buried. 



CHAPTER IX. 

I SEE THE KING OF THE' PERSIAN MAGICIAN. 

" That's a devilish fine girl," said Mark Wylder. 

He was sitting at this monent on the billiard table, with 
his coat off and his cue in his hand, and had lighted a ci- 
gar. He and I had just had a game, and were tired of it. 

" Who ? " I asked. He was looking on me from the 
corners of his eyes, and smiling in a sly rakish way that no 
man likes in another. 

" Radie Lake — she's a splendid girl, by Jove ! Don't 
you think so ? and she liked me once devilish well, I can 
tell you. She was thin then, but she has plumped out a 
bit, and improved every way." 

"Yes, she is — she's very well; but hang it Wylder, 
you're a married man now, and must give up talking that 
way. People won't like it, you Ijnow ; they'll take it to 
mean more than it does, and you oughtn't. Let us have 
another game." 

" By-and-by; what do you think of Larkin ?" 'asked 
Wylder, with a sly glance from the corners of his eye. 
" I think he prays rather more than is good for his cli- 
ents ; mind I spell it with an ' a,' not with an ' e ; ' 
but hang it, for an attorney, you know, and such a sharp 
chap, it does seem to me rather a — a joke, eh? " 

" He bears a good character among the townspeople, 
dosn't he ? And I don't see that it can do him any harm, 
remembering that he has a soul to be saved." 

" Or the other thing, eh ? " laughed Wylder, " But 
I think he comes it a little too strong — ' two sermons last 
Sunday, and a prayer meeting at nine o'clock ! " 



50 fVYLDER'S H^JVD. 

" Well, it won't do him any harm," I repeated. 

" Harm ! 0, let Jos Larkin alone for that. It gets 
him all the religious business of the county ; I dare say it 
brings him in two or three hundred a year, eh ? " And 
Wylder laughed again. " It has broken up his hard, proud 
heart," he says ; " but it left him a devilish hard head, I 
told him, and I think it sharpens his wits." 

" I rather think you'll find him a useful man ; and to 
be so in his line of business he must have his wits about 
him, I can tell you." 

" He amused me devilishly," said Wylder, " with a sort 
of exhortation he treated me to ; he's a delightfully im- 
pudent chap, and gave me to understand I was a limb of 
the Devil, and he a saint. I told him I was better than 
he, in my humble opinion, and so I am, by chalks. I 
know very well I'm a miserable sinner, but there's mercy 
above, and I don't hide my faults. I don't set up for a 
light or a saint ; I'm just what the prayer-book says — a 
miserable sinner. There's only one good thing I can safely 
say for myself — lam no Pharisee; tint's all; I'm no 
religious prig, puffing myself, and trusting to forms, making 
long prayers in the market-place " (Mark's quotations were 
paraphrastic), " and thinking of nothing but the uppermost 
seat in the synagogue, and the praise of men — hang them, 
I bate those fellows." 

*' Do you wish another game ? " I asked. 

" Just now," said Wylder, emitting first a thin stream 
of smoke, and watching its ascent. " Dorcas is the belle 
-of the county ; and she likes me, though she's odd, and 
don't show it the way other girls would. But a fellow 
knows pretty well when a girl likes him, and you know the 
marriage is a sensible sort of thing, and I'm determined, 
of course, to carry it through ; but, hang it, a fellow can't 
help thinking sometimes there are other things besides 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 51 

money, and Dorcas is not my style. Rachel's more that 
way ; she's a tremendious fine girl, by Jove ! and I think, 
if I had seen her first, I'd have thought twice before I'd 
have got myself into this business." 

I only smiled and shook my head. 

" What do you laugh at, Charlie ? " said Wylder, grin- 
ning himself. 

" At your confounded grumbling, Mark. The luckiest 
dog in England ! Will nothing content you ? " 

" Why, I grumble very little, I think, considering how 
well off I am," rejoined he, with a laugh. 

" Grumble ! If you had a particle of gratitude, you'd 
build a temple to Fortune — you're pagan enough for it, 
Mark." 

" Fortune has nothing to do with it," says Mark, laugh- 
ing again. 

" Well, certainly, neither had you." 

" It was all the Devil. I'm not joking, Charlie, upon 
my word, though I'm laughing." (Mark swore now and 
then, but I take leave to soften his oaths.) " It was the 
Persian Magician." 

" Come Mark, say what you mean." 

" I mean what I say. When we were in the Persian 
Gulf, near six years ago, I was in command of the ship. 
The captain, you see, was below, with a hurt in his leg. 
We had very rough weather — a gale for two days and a 
night almost — and a heavy swell afte:j:. In the night 
time we picked up three poor devils in an open boat. One 
was a Persian merchant, with a grand beard. We called 
him the magician, he was so like the picture of Aladdin's 
uncle." 

" Why he was an African," I interposed, my sense of 
accuracy offended. 

"I don't care a curse what he was," rejoined Mark; 



52 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" lie was exactly like the picture in the story-books. And 
as we were lying off — I forget the cursed name of it — 
he begged me to put him ashore. He could not speak a 
word of English, but one of the fellows with him interpret- 
ed, and they were all anxious to get ashore. Poor devils, 
they had a notion, I believe, we were going to sell them 
for slaves, and he made me a present of a ring, and told 
me a long yarn about it. It was a talisman, it seems, and 
no one who wore it could ever be lost. So I took it for a 
keepsake ; here it is," and he extended his stumpy, brown 
little finger, and showed a thick, coarsely-made ring of 
gold, with an uncut red stone, of the size of a large cherry 
stone, set in it. 

"The stone is a humbug," said Wylder. "It's not 
real. I showed it to Elatten and Foyle. It's some sort 
of glass. But I would not part with it. I got a fancy 
into my head that luck would come with it, and maybe 
that glass stuff was the thing that had the virtue in it. 
Now look at these Persian letters on the inside, for that's 
the oddest thing about it. Hang it, I can't pull it off — 
I'm growing as fat as a pig — but they are like a queer 
little string of flowers ; and I showed it to a clever fellow 
at Malta — a missionary, chap — and he read it off sUck, 
and what do you think it means : ' I will come up 
again ;' ' and he swore a great oath. " It's as true as you 
stand there — our motto. Is not it odd ? So I got the 
" resurgam" you see there engraved round it, and by Jove ! 
it did bring me up. I was near lost, and did rise again. 
Eh?" 

Well, it certainly was a curious accident. Mark had 
plenty of odd and not unamusing lore. Men who beat 
about the world in ships usually have. 

" When I got this ring, Charley, three hundred a year 
and a London life would have been Peru and Paradise to 
poor Pilgarlick, and see what it has done for me." 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 53 

" Aye, and better than Aladdin's, for you need not rub 
it and bring up that confounded ugly genii ; the slave of 
your ring works unseen." 

"So he does," laughed Wyldcr, in a state of elation, 
" and he's not done working yet, I can tell you. When 
the estates are joined in one, they'll be^ood eleven thou- 
sand a year : and Larkin says, with smart management, 
I shall have a rental of thirteen thousand before three 
years ! And that's only the beginning, by George ! Sir 
Henry Twisden can't hold his seat — he's all but broke 
— as poor as Job, and the gentry hate him, and he lives 
abroad. He has had a hint or two already, and he'll 
never fight the next election. D'ye see — hey ? " 

And he laughed with cunning exultation. 

" Miss Rachel will find I'm not quite such a lubber as 
she fancies. But even then it is only begun. Come, 
Charlie, you used to like a bet. What do you say ? I'll 
buy you that twenty- five guinea book of pictures — 
what's its name ? — if you give me three hundred guineas 
one month after I'm a peer of Parliment. Hey ? There's 
a sporting ofier for you. Well ! what do you say — eh ? " 

I laughed and declined, to his great elation, and just 
then the gong sounded and we were away to our toilets. 

While making my toilet for dinner, I amused myself by 
conjecturing whether there could be any foundation in 
fact for Mark's boast, that Miss Brandon liked him. 
Women are so enigmatical — some in everything — all in 
matters of the heart. Don't they often afiect indifierence, 
and occasionally even aversion, where there is a different 
sort of feeling ? 

As I went down I heard Miss Lake chatting with her 
queen-like cousin near an open, door on the lobby. Ra- 
chel Lake was, indeed, a very constant guest at the Hall, 
and the servants paid her much respect, which I look upon 



54 WVLDER'S HAJVn. 

as a sign that the young heiress liked her and treated her 
with consideration ; and indeed there was a fiery spirit in 
that young lady which would have brooked nothing less 
and dreamed of nothing but equality. 



CHAPTER X. 

THE ACE OF HEARTS. 

Who should I find in the drawing-room, talking fluent- 
ly and smiling, after his wont, to old Lady Chelford, who 
seemed to receive him very graciously, for her at least, 
but Captain Stanley Lake ! 

" You know Captain Lake ? " said Lord Chelford, ad- 
dressing me. 

And Lake turned round upon me, a little abruptly, 
his odd yellowish eyes. There was something evil and 
skrinking in his aspect, which I felt with a sort of chill, 
like the commencing fascination of a serpent. I often 
thought since that he had expected to see Wylder before 
him. 

You're surprised to see me here," he said, in his very 
pleasing low tones. 

" I lighted on him in the village ; and I knew Miss 
Brandon would not forgive me if I allowed him to go 
away without coming here. They are cousins, you know ; 
we are all cousins. I'm bad at genealogies. My mother 
could tell us all about it — we, Brandons, Lakes, Wylders, 
and Chelfords." 

At this moment Miss Brandon entered, with her bril- 
liant cousin, Rachel. The blonde and the dark, it was a 
dazzling contrast. 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 55 

So Chelford led Stanley Lake before the lady of the 
castle. I thought of the " Fair Brunnisende," with the 
captive knight in the hands of her seneschal before her, 
and I fancied he said something of having found him tres- 
passing in her town, and brought him up for judgment. 
Whatever Lord Chelford said, Miss Brandon received it 
very graciously, and even with a momentary smile. I 
wonder she did not smile oftener, it became her so. But 
her greeting to Captain Lake was more than usually haugh- 
ty and frozen, and her features particularly proud and 
pale. 

" Shake hands with your cousin, my dear,*' said old 
Lady Chelford, peremptorily. The little scene took place 
close to her chair ; and upon this stage direction the little 
piece of by-play took place, and the young lady coldly 
touched the Captain's hand, and passed on. 

Young as he was, Stanley Lake was an old man of the 
world, not to be disconcerted, and never saw more than 
exactly suited him. 

When Lord Chelford joined us, I perceived that Wylder 
was in the room, and saw a very cordial greeting between 
him and Lake. The Captain appeared quite easy and 
cheerful : but Mark, I thought, notwithstanding his laugh- 
ter and general jollity, was uncomfortable ; and I saw him 
once or twice, when Stanley's eye was not upon hini, glance 
sharply on the young man with an uneasy and not very 
friendly curiosity. 

At dinner Lake was easy and amusing. That meal 
passed off rather pleasantly; and when we joined the 
ladies in the drawing-room, the good Vicar's enthusiastic 
little wife came to meet us, in one of her honest little 
raptures. 

" Now, here's a thing worth your looking at ! Did you 
ever see anything so bee-utiful in your life ? It is such a 



56 WYLDER'S HAJ^D. 

darling little thing ; and — look now — is not it magnifi- 
cent?" 

She arrested the file of gentlemen just by a large lamp, 
before whose efifulgence she presented the subject of her 
eulogy — one of those costly trifles which announce the ap- 
proach of Hymen, as flowers spring up before the rosy 
steps of May. 

Well, it was pretty — a set of tablets — a toy — the 
cover of enamel, studded in small jewels, with a slender 
border of symbolic flowers, and with a heart in the center, 
a mosaic of little carbuncles, rubies, and other red and 
crimson stones, placed with a view to light and shade. 

" Exquisite, indeed ! " said Lord Chelford. " Is this 
yours, Mrs. Wylder? " 

" Mine, indeed ! " laughed poor little Mrs. Dorothy. 
" Well, dear me, no, indeed; " — and in an earnest whis- 
per close in his ear — " a present to Miss Brandon, and the 
donor is not a hundred miles away from your elbow, my 
Lord ! " and she winked slyly, and laughed, with a little 
nod at Wylder. 

"Oh! I see — to be sure — really, Wylder, it does 
your taste infinite credit." 

" I'm glad you like it," says Wylder, chuckling be- 
nignantly on it, over his shoulder. " I believe I have a 
little taste that way ; those are all real, you know, 
those jewels." 

" Oh, yes ! of course. Have you seen it. Captain 
Lake ? " And he placed it in that gentleman's fingers, 
who now took his turn at the lamp, and contemplated the 
little parallelogram with a gleam of sly amusement. 

" What are you laughing at? " asked Wylder, a little 
snappishly. 

"I was thinking it's very like the ace of hearts," an- 
swered the Captain softly, smiling on. 



WVLDER'S HAJVn. 57 

" Well now, thought, really it is funny ; it did not 
strike me before, but do you know, now, it is," laughs out 
jolly Mrs. Dolly, " isn't it. Look at it, do, Mr. Wylder 
— isn't it like the ace of hearts ? " 

And Wylder laughed too, more suddenly and noisily 
than the humor of the joke seemed quite to call for, and 
glknced a grim look from the corners of his eyes on Lake, 
but the gallant Captain did not seem to perceive it ; and 
after a few seconds more he handed it very innocently back 
to Mrs. Dorothy, only remarking — 

" Seriously, it is very pretty, and appropriate.^^ 

And Wylder, making no remark, helped himself to a 
cup of coffee, and then to a glass of Cura9oa, and then 
looked industriously at a Spanish quarto of Don Quixote, 
and lastly walked over to me in the hearth-rug. 

-" What the d — has he come down here for? It can't 
be for money, or balls, or play, and he has no honest 
business anywhere. Do you know ? " 

" Lake ? Oh ! I really can't tell ; but he'll soon tire of 
counti;y life. I don't think he's much of a sportsman." 

" Ha, isn't he ? I don't know anything about him al- 
most; but I hate him." 

" Why should you, though ? He's a very gentlemanlike 
fellow, and your cousin." 

" My cousin — the Devil's cousin — every-one's cousin. 
I don't know who's my cousin, or who isn't ; nor you don't, 
who've been for ten years over those d — d papers ; I 
took a dislike to him at first sight long ago, and that never 
happened me but I was right." 

" He's not a man for country quarters ; he'll soon be 
back in tdwn, or to Brighton," I said. 

" If he doesn't, /will. That's all." 

Just to get him off this unpleasant groove with a little 

jolt, I said — 

3* 



58 WTLDER'S HAJVD. 

" By-the-bye, Wylder, you know the pictures here ; who 
is the tall man, with the long, pale face, and wild, phos- 
phoric eyes ? I was always afraid of him ; in a long 
peruke, and dark red velvet coat, facing the hall-door. I 
had a horrid dream about him last night." 

" That ? Oh, I know — that's Lome Brandon. He 
was one of our family devils, he was. (All- the time he 
was talking to me his angry little eyes were following 
Lake.) " They say he killed his son, a blackguard, who 
was found shot, with his face in the tarn in the park. He - 
was going to marry the game-keeper's daughter, it was 
thought, and he and the old boy, who was for high blood, 
and all that, were at logger-heads about it. It was not 
proved, only thought likely, but he might have done worse. 
I suppose Miss Partridge would have had a precious lot of 
babbies ; and who "knows where the estate would have been 
by this time." 

" I believe, Charlie," he re-commenced suddenly, " there 
is not such an unnatural family on record as ours ; is 
there ? Ha, ha, ha ! It's well to be distinguished in any 
line. I forget all the other good things he did ;' but he 
ended by shooting himself through the head in his bedroom, 
and that was not the worst thing ever he did." 

And "Wylder laughed again, and began to whistle very 
low — not, I fancy, for want of thought, but as a sort of 
accompaniment thereto, for he suddenly said — 

" And where is he staying? " 

"Who? — Lake?" 

" Yes." 

"I don't know; but I think he mentioned Larkin's 
house, didn't he ? I'm not quite sure." 

" I suppose he thinks I'm made of money. By Jove ! 
if he wants to borrow any I'll surprise him, the cur ; I'll 
talk to him ; ha, ha, ha ! " 



WVLDER'S HAJVD. 59 

And Wylder chuckled angrily, as his eye glanced on the 
graceful Captain, who was entertaining the ladies, no 
doubt, very agreeably in the distance. 



CHAPTER XI. 

IN "WHICH LAKE UNDER THE TKEES 05 BKANDON, AND 
I IN MY CHAMBBE, SMOKE OUK NOOTUKNAL CIGARS. 

Miss Lake declined the carriage to-night.- Her brother 
Tvas to see her home, and there was a leave-taking, and the 
young ladies whispered a word or two, and kissed, after 
the manner of their kind. To Captain Lake, Miss Bran- 
don's adieux were as cold and haughty as her greeting. 

" Did you see that ? " said Wylder in my ear, with a 
chuckle : and, wagging his head, he added, rather loftily 
for him, " Miss Brandon, I reckon, has taken your measure, 
Master Stanley, as well as I. I wonder what the deuce 
the old dowager sees in him. Old women always like ras- 
cals." 

I suppose the balance of attraction and repulsion was 
overcome by Miss Lake, much as he disliked Stanley, for 
Wylder followed them out with Lord Chelford, to help the 
young lady into her cloak and galoshes, and I found my- 
self near Miss Brandon for the first time that evening, and to 
my surprise she was first to speak, and that rather strangely. 

" You seem to be very sensible, Mr. De Cresseron ; pray 
tell me, frankly, what do you think of all , this ? " 

" I am not quite sure, Miss Brandon, that I under- 
stand your question," I replied. 

" I mean of the — the family arrangements, in which, 



60 WYLDER'S HA^TD. 

as. Mr. Wylder's friend, you seem to take an interest? " 
she said. 

" There can hardly be a second opinion, Miss Brandon ; 
I think it a very wise measure," I replied, much sur- 
prised. 

'' Very Tvise — exactly. But don't these very wise 
things sometimes turn out very foolishly ? Do you really 
think your friend, Mr. Wylder, cares about me ? " 

" I take that for granted : in the nature of things it 
can hardly be otherwise," I replied, startled and per- 
plexed by the curious audacity of her interrogatory. 

" It was very foolish of me to expect from Mr. Wylder's 
friend any other answer ; j'ou are very loyal, Mr. De 
Cresseron." 

And without awaiting my reply she made some remark 
which I forgot to Lady Chelford, who sat at a little dis- 
tance ; and, appearing quite absorbed in her new subject, 
she placed herself close beside the dowager, and contin- 
ued to chat in a low tone. 

I was vexed with myself for having inanaged with so 
little skill a conversation which, opened so oddly and 
frankly, might have placed me on relations so nearly con- 
fidential, with that singular and beautiful girl. I ought 
to have rejoiced — but we don't always see what most 
concerns our peace. 

By this time Lord Chelford and Wylder returned ; and, 
disgusted rather with myself, I ruminated on my want of 
generalship. 

In the meantime. Miss Lake, with her hand on her 
brother's arm, was walking swiftly under the trees of the 
back avenue towards that footpath which, through wild 
copse and broken clumps near the park, emerges upon the 
Still darker road which passes along the wooded glen by 
the mills, and skirts the little paling of the recluse lady's 



WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 61 

garden. They had not walked far, when Lake suddenly 



" What do you'think of all this, Radie — this particu- 
lar version, I mean, of marriage, d-la-mode, they are 
preparing up there ? " and he made a little dip of his 
cane towards Brandon Hall, over his shoulder. " I 
really don't think Wylder cares twopence about her, or 
she about him," and Stanley Lake laughed gently and 
sleepily. 

"I don't think they pretend to like one another. It 
was all, you know, old Lady Chelford's arrangement ; 
and Dorcas is so supine, I believe she would allow her- 
self to be given away by any one. and to any one, rather 
than be at the least trouble. She provokes me." 

" But I thought she liked Sir Harry Bracton : he's a 
good-looking fellow ; and Queen's Bracton is a very nice 
thing, you know." . 

"Yes, so they said; but that would, I think, have 
been worse. Something may be made of Mark Wylder. 
He has some sense and caution, has not he? — but Sir 
Harry is wickedness itself! " 

" Why — what has Sir Harry done ? That is the way 
you women run away with things ! If a fellow's been a 
little bit wild, he's Beelzebub at once. Bracton's a very 
good fellow, I can assure you." 

The jact is, Captain Lake, an accomplished player, 
made a pretty little revenue of Sir Harry's billiards, 
which were wild and noisy ; and liking his money, thought 
he liked himself — a confusion not uncommon. 

" I don't know, and can't say, how you fine gentlemen 
define wickedness ; only, as an obscure female, I speak 
according to my lights : and he is generally thought the 
wickedest man in this county." 

" Well, you know, Radie, women like wicked fellows : 



62 WYLDER'S HAJVn. 

it is contrast, I suppose, but they do ; and I'm sure, from 
what Bracton has said to me — I know him intimately — 
that Dorcas likes him, and I can't conceive why they are 
not married." 

Their walk continued silent for the greater part, nei- 
ther was quite satisfied with the other. But Rachel at 
last said — 

" Stanley, you meditate some injury to Mark Wylder." 
"I, Eadie?" he answered quietly, "why on earth 
should you think so ? " 

" I saw you twice watch him when you thought no one 
ohsgrved you — and I know your face too well, Stanley, 
to mistake." 

"Now that's impossible, Radie; for I really don't 
think I once thought of him all this evening — except 
just while we were talking." 

" You keep your secret as usual, Stanley," said the 
young lady. 

" Really, Radie, you're quite mistaken. I assure you, 
upon my honor, I've no secret. You're a very odd girl 
— why won't you believe me ? " 

" Well, Stanley, I ask no more — but you don't deceive 
me." 

" I don't try to. If your feelings indeed had been dif- 
ferent, and that you had not made such a point — you 
know " — 

" Don't insult me. Stanley, by talking again as you 
did this morning. What I say is altogether on your own 
account. Mark my words, you'll find him too strong for 
you ; aye, and too deep. I see very plainly that he sus- 
pects you as I do. You saw it, too, for nothing of that 
kind escapes you. Whatever you meditate, he probably 
anticipates it — you know best — and you will find him 
prepared. You were always the same, close, dark, and 



WTLDER'S HAjVD. QQ 

crooked, and wise in your own conceit. I am very uneasy 
about it, whatever it is. I can't help it. It will happen 

— and most ominously I feel that you are courting a 
dreadful retaliation, and that you will bring on yourself a 
great misfortune ; but it is quite vain, I know, speaking 
to you." 

" Eeally, Radie, you're enough to frighten a poor fel- 
low ; you won't mind a word I say, and go on predicting 
all manner of mischief between me and Wylder, the very 
nature of which I can't surmise. Would you dislike my 
smoking a cigar. Radio." 

" Oh no," answered the young lady, with a little laugh 
and a heavy sigh, for she knew it meant silence, and her 
dark auguries grew darker. 

To my mind there has always been something inexpres- 
sibly awful in family feuds. The mystery of their origin 

— their capacity for evolving latent faculties of crime — 
and the steady vitality with which they survive the hearse, 
and speak their deep-mouthed malignities in every new- 
born generation, have associated them somehow in my 
mind with a spell of life exceeding and distinct from hu- 
man, and a special Satanic action. 

My chamber, as I have mentioned, was upon the third 
story. It was one of many, opening upon the long gal- 
lery, which had been the scene, four generations back, of 
that midnight duel which had laid one scion of this ancient 
house in his shroud, and driven another a fugitive to the 
moral solitudes of a continental banishment. 

Much of the day, as I told you, had been passed among 
the grisly records of these old family crimes and hatreds. 
They had been an ill-conditioned and not a happy race. 
When I heard the servant's step traversing that long gal- 
lery, as it seemed to me in haste to be gone, and when all 
grew silent, I began to feel a dismal sort of sensation, and 



64 WVLVER'S HAJVD. 

lighted the pair of wax candles which I found upon the 
small writing table. How wonderful and mysterious is 
the influence of light ! What sort of beings must those 
be who hate it ? 

The floor, more than anything else, showed the great 
age of the room. It was warped and arched all along by 
the wall between the door and the window. My bed was 
unexceptionably comfortable, but, in my then mood, I 
could have wished it a great deal more modern. Its four 
posts were, like the rest of it, oak, well-nigh black, fan- 
tastically turned and carved, with a great urn-like capi- 
tal and base, and shaped midway, like a gigantic lance- 
handle. Its curtains were of thick and faded tapestry. 
There was a great lowering press of oak, and some shelves, 
with withered green and gold leather borders. All the 
furniture belonged to other times. 

I shan't trouble you about my train of thoughts or fan- 
cies ; but I began to feel very like a gentleman in a ghost 
stoi-y, watching experimentally in a haunted chamber. 
My cigar case was a resource. I was not a bit afraid of 
being found out. I did not even take the precaution of 
smoking up the chimney. I boldly lighted my cheroot. 
I peeped through the dense window curtain : there were 
no shutters. A cold, bright moon was shining with clear 
sharp lights and shadows. Everything looked strangely 
cold and motionless outside. The chapel lay full in view, 
where so many of the strange and equivocal race, under 
whose ancient roof-tree I then stood, were lying under 
their tomb stones. 

Somehow, I had grown nervous. A little bit of plaster 
tumbled down the chimney, and startled me confoundedly. 
Then, some time after, I fancied I heard a creaking step, 
on the lobby outside, and, candle in hand, opened the door, 
and looked out with an odd sort of expectation, and a 
rather agreeable disappointment, upon vacancy. 



CHAPTER XII. 

IN WHICH UNCLE LOKNE TROUBLES MB. 

I was growing most uncomfortably like one of Mrs. 
Anne Radcliff 's heroes — a nervous race of demigods. I 
walked like a sentinel up and down my chamber, puffing 
leisurely the solemn incense, and trying to think of the 
Opera and my essay on " Paradise Lost," and other pleas- 
ant subjects. But it would not do. Every now and then, 
as I turned towards the door, I fancied I saw it softly close. 
I can't say whether it was altogether fancy. I called 
out once or twice sharply — "Come in!" "Who's 
there ? "' " Who's that ? " and so forth, without any sort 
of effect except that unpleasant reaction upon the terves 
which follows the sound of one's own voice in a solitude 
of this kind. The fact is I did not myself believe in that 
stealthy motion of mj door, and set it down to one of 
those illusions which I have sometimes succeeded in ana- 
lysing — a half-seen combination of objects which, rightly 
placed in the due relations of perspective, have no mutual 
connection whatever. 

I had now got half-way in my second cheroot, and the 
clock clanged " one." It was a very still night, and the 
prolonged boom vibrated strangely in my excited ears and 
brain. One o'clock was better, however, than twelve. 
-Although, by Jove ! the bell was "beating one," as I re- 
member, precisely as that king of ghosts, old Hamlet, 
revisited the glimpses of the moon, upon the famous plat- 
form of Elsinore. 

I had pondered too long over the lore of this Satanic 
family, and drunk very strong tea, I suppose. I could 



66 WYLDER'S HAJVn. 

not get my nerves into a comfortable state, and cheerful ' 
thoughts refused to inhabit the darkened chamber of my 
brain. As I stood in a sort of reverie, looking straight 
upon the door, I saw — and this time there could be no 
mistake whatsoever — the handle — the only modern thing 
about it — slowly turned, and the door itself as slowly 
pushed about a quarter open. 

I do not know what exclamation I made. The door was 
shut instantly, and I found myself standing at it, and look- 
ing out upon the lobby, with a candle in my hand, and 
actually freezing with foolish horror. 

I was looking towards the stair-head. The passage was 
empty, and ended in utter darkness. I glanced the other 
way, and thought I saw — though not distinctly — in the 
distance a white figure, not gliding in the conventional way, 
but limping oiF, with a jerky motion, and, in a second or 
two, quite lost in darkness. 

I got into my room again, and shut the door with a clap 
that sounded loudly and unnaturally through the dismal 
quiet that surrounded me, and stood with my hand on the 
handle, with the instinct of resistance. 

I felt uncomfortable ; and I would have secured the door, 
but there was no sort of fastening within. So I paused. 
I did not mind looking out again. To tell you the plain 
truth, I was just a little bit afraid. Then I grew angry 
at having been put into such remote, and, possibly, suspect- 
ed quarters, and then my comfortable scepticism super- 
vened. 

So, in due course having smoked my cheroot, I jerked 
the stump into the fire. Of course I could not think of 
depriving myself of candle-light ; and being already of a 
thoughtful, old-bachelor temperament, and averse from 
burning houses, I placed one of my tall wax-lights in a 
basin on the table by my bed — in which I soon efiected a 
lodgment, and lay with a comparative sense of security. 



WVLDER'S BAJVn. 67 

Then I heard two o'clock strike ;• but shortly after, as I 
suppose, sleep overtook me, and I have no distinct idea for 
how long my slumber lasted. The fire was very low when 
I awoke, and ^w a figure — and a very odd one — seated 
by the embers, and stooping over the grate, with a pair 
of long hands expanded, as it seemed, to catch the warmth 
of the sinking fire. 

It was that of a very tall old man, entirely dressed in 
white flannel — a . very long spencer, and some sort of 
white swathing about his head. His back was toward me ; 
and he stooped without the slightest motion over the fire- 
place, in the attitude I have described. 

As I looked, he suddenly turned toward me, and fixed 
upon me a cold, and as it seemed, a wrathful gaze, over his 
shoulder. It was a bleached and a, long-chinned face — the 
countenance of Lome's portrait — only more faded, sin- 
ister, and apathetic. And having, as it were, secured its 
awful command over me by a protracted gaze, he rose, 
supernaturally lean and tall, and drew near the side pf my 
bed. 

I continued to stare upon this apparition with the most 
dreadful fascination I ever experienced in my life. For 
two or three seconds I literally could not move. When I 
did, I am not ashamed to confess, it was to plunge my head 
under the bed-clothes, with the childish instinct of terror ; 
and there I lay breathless, for what seemed to me not far 
from ten minutes, during which there was no sound, nor 
other symptom of its presence. 

On a sudden the bed-clothes were gently lifted at my 
feet, and I sprang backwards, sitting upright against the 
back of the bed, and once more under the gaze of that 
long- chinned old man. . 

A voice, as peculiar as the appearance of the figure, 
said : — 



68 WYLDER'S HAJ^D. 

" Tou are in my bed — I died in it a great many years 
ago. I am Uncle Lome ; and when I am not here, a devil 
goes up and down in the room. See ! he had his face to 
your ear when I came in. I came from Dorcas Brandon's 
bed-chamber door, where her evil angel told me a thing ; 

— and Mark Wylder must not seek to marry her, for he 
will be buried alive if he does, and he will, maybe, never 
get up again. Say your prayers when I go out, and come 
here no more." 

He paused, as if these incredible words were to sink 
into my memory ; and then, in the same tone, and with 
the same countenance, he asked — 

" Is the blood on my forehead ? " 

I don't know whether I answered. 

" So soon as a calamity is within twelve hours, the blood 
comes upon my forehead, as they found me in the morning 

— it is a sign." 

The old man then drew back slowly, and disappeared be- 
hind the curtains at the foot of the bed, and I saw no more 
of him during the rest of that odious night. 

So long as this apparition remained before me, I never 
doubted its being supernatural. I don't think mortal ever 
sufiFered horror more intense. For some seconds I hardly 
knew where I" was. But soon a reaction came, and I felt 
convinced that the apparition was a living man. It was 
no process of reason or philosophy, but simply I became 
persuaded of it, and something like rage overcame my 
terrors. 



CHAPTER XIII. 



THE PONY CABRIAOE. 



So soon as daylight came, I ^ade a swift cold water 
toilet, and got out into the open air, with a solemn resolu- 
tion to see the hated interior of that bed-room no more. 

Stanley Lake did not appear that day ; Wylder" was 
glowering and abstracted — worse company than usual ; 
and Rachel seemed to have quite passed from his recollec- 
tion. 

While Rachel Lake was, as usual, busy in her little 
garden that day. Lord Chelford, on his way to the town, 
by the pretty mill-road, took off his hat to her with a 
smiling salutation, and, leaning on the paling, he said — 

" I often wonder how you make your flowers grow here 
— you have so little sun among the trees — and yet, it is 
so pretty and flowery ; it remains in my memory as if the 
sun were always shining specially on this little garden." 

Miss Lake laughed. 

" I am very proud of it. They try not to blow, but I 
never let them alone till they do. See all my watering-pots, 
and pruning-scissors, my sticks, and bass-mat, and glass 
covers. Skill and industry conquer churlish nature — and 
this is my Versailles." 

" I don't believe in those sticks, and scissors, and 
watering-pots. You won't tell your secret ; but I'm sure 
it's an influence — you smile and whisper to them." 

She smiled — without raising her eyes — on the flower 
she was tying up ; and, indeed, it was such a smile as 
must have made it happy — and she said, gaily — 



70 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" You forget that Lord Chelford passes this 'way some- 
times, and shines upon them, too." 

" No, he's a dull, earthly dog ; and if he shines here, 
it is only in reflected light." 

" Margery, child, fetch me the scissors." 

And a hobble-de-hoy of a girl, with round eyes, and a 
long -ffhite apron, and bare arms, came down the little 
walk, and — eyeing the peer with an awful curiosity — 
presented the shears to the charming Atropos, who clipped 
off the withered blossoms that had bloomed their hour, 
and were to cumber the stalk no more. 

" Now, you see what art may do ; how passSe this 
creature was till I made her toilet, and how wonderfully 
the poor old beauty looks now," and she glanced compla- 
cently at the plant she had just trimmed. 

" Well, it is young again and beautiful ; but no — I 
have no faith in the scissors ; I still believe in the influ- 
ence — from the tips of your fingers, your looks, and 
tones. Flowers, like fairies, have their favorites, whom 
they smile on and obey ; and I think this is a haunted 
glen — trees, flowers, all have an intelligence and a feel- 
ing — and I am sure you see wonderful things, by moon- 
light^ from your window." 

With a strange meaning echo, those words returned to 
her afterwards — " I'm sure you see wonderful things, by 
moonlight, from your window." 

And as they chatted in this strain, Rachel paused on 
a sudden, with upraised hand, listening pleasantly. 

" I hear the pony-carriage ; Dorcas is coming," she 
said. 

And the tinkle of tiny wheels, coming down the road, 
was audible. 

" There's a pleasant sense of adventure, too, in the 
midst of your seclusion. Sudden arrivals and passing pil- 



Ci 



WYLDER'S HAJ\rZ>. 7X 

grims, like me, leaning over the paling, and refreshed by 
the glimpse the rogue steals of this charming oratory. 
Tes ; here comes the fair Brunnisende." 

And he made his salutation. Miss Brandon smiled 
from under her gipsy-hat very pleasantly for lier. 

" Will you come with me for a drive, Radie ? " she asked. 

"Yes, dear — delighted. Margery, bring my gloves 
and cloak." 

And she unpinned the faded silk shawl that did duty 
in the garden, and drew off her gauntlets, and showed her 
pretty hands ; and Margery popped her cloak on her 
shoulders, and the young lady pulled on her gloves. All 
ready in a moment, like a young lady of energy ; and 
chatting merrily, she sat down beside her cousin, who held 
the reins. As there were no more gates to open, Miss 
Brandon dismissed the servant, who stood at the ponies' 
heads, and who, touching his hat with his white glove, 
received his congi, and strode with willing steps up the 
road. 

• "Will you take me for your foottoan as far as the 
town ? " asked Lord Chelford ; so, with permission, up he 
jumped behind, and away they whirled, close over the 
ground, on toy wheels ringing merrily on the shingle, he 
leaning over the back and chatting pleasantly with the 
young ladies as they drove on. 

They drew up at the Brandon Arms, and little girls 
courtesied at doorsj aud householders peeped from their 
windows, not standing close to the panes, but respectfully 
back, at the great lady and the nobleman, who was now 
taking his leave. 

And next they pulled up at that official rendezvous, 
with white-washed front — and "post-office," in white 
letters on a brown board over its door, and its black, 
hinged window-pane, through which Mr. Driver — or, in 



72 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

his absence, Miss Anne Driver — answered questions, and 
transacted affairs oflScially. 

In the rear of this establishment were kept some dogs 
of Lawyer Larkin's ; and just as the ladies arrived, that 
person emerged, looking overpoweringly gentlemanlike, in 
a white hat, grey paletot, lavender trowsers, and white 
riding gloves. He was in a righteous and dignified way 
pleased to present himself in so becoming a costume, and 
moreover in good company, for Stanley Lake was going 
with him to Dutton for a day's sport, which neither of 
them cared for. But Stanley hoped to pump the attor- 
ney, and the attorney, I'm afraid, liked being associated 
with the fashionable Captain ; and so they were each 
pleased in the way that suited them. 

The attorney, being long as well as lank, had to stoop 
under the doorway, but drew himself up handsomely on 
coming out, and assumed his easy, high-bred style, which, 
although he was not aware of it, was very nearly insup- 
portable, and smiled very engagingly, and meant to talk a 
little about the weather ; but Miss Brandon made him one 
of her gravest and slightest bows, and suddenly saw Mrs. 
Brown at her shop door on the other side, and had a word 
to say to her. 

And now Stanley Lake drew up in the tax-cart, and 
greeted the ladies, and told them how he meant to pass the 
day ; and the dogs being put in, and the attorney, I'm 
afraid a little spited at his reception, in possession of the 
reins, they drove down the little street at a great pace, and 
disappeared round the corner ; and in a minuje more 
the young ladies, in the opposite direction, resumed their 
driv6. The ponies, being grave and trustworthy, and 
having the road quite to themselves, needed little looking 
after, and Miss Brandon was free to converse with her conj- 
panion. 



WVLDER'S HA^TD. 73 

" I think, Rachel, you have a lover," she said. 

" Only a bachelor, I'm afraid, as my poor Margery calls 
the young gentleman who takes her out for a walk on a 
Sunday, and I fear means nothing more." 

" This is the second time I've found Chelford talking 
to you, Rachel, at the door of your pretty little gar- 
den." 

Rachel laughed. 

" Suppose, some fine day, he should put his hand over 
the paling, and take yours, and make you a speech." 

" You romantic darling," she said, " don't~you know 
that peers and princes have quite given over marrying 
simple maidens of low estate for love and liking, and un- 
derstand match-making better than you or I ; though I 
could give a tolerable account of myself, after the manner 
of the white cat in the story, which I think is a pattern 
of frankness and modest dignity, I'd say with a courtesy 
— ' Think not, prince, that I have always been a cat, and 
that my birth is obscure ; my father was king of six 
kingdoms, and loved my mother tenderly,' and so forth." 

" Rachel, I like you," interrupted the dark bea«ty, fix- 
ing her large eyes, from which not light, but, as it were, a 
rich shadow fell softly on her companion^ It was the first 
time she had made any such confession. Rachel returned 
her look as frankly, with an amused smile, and then said, 
with a comic little toss of her head — 

" Well, Dorcas, I don't see why you should not, though 
I don't know why you say so." 

" You're not like other people ; you don't complain, and 
you're not bitter, although you have had great misfortunes, 
my poor Rachel." 

There be ladies, young and old, who, the moment they 
are pitied, though never so cheerful before, will forthwith 
•dissolve in tears. But that was not Rachel's way ; she 
4 



74 WYLDER'S HAJiTD. 

only looked at her with a good-humored but grave curi- 
osity for a few seconds, and then said, with rather a kind- 
ly smile — 

" And now, Dorcas, I like you." 

Dorcas made no answer, but put her arm round Rachel's 
neck, and kissed her ; Dorcas made two kissses of it, and 
Rachel one, but it was cousinly and kindly ; and Rachel 
laughed a soft little laugh after it, looking amused and 
very lovingly on her cousin ; but she was a bold lass, and 
not given in anywise to the melting mood, and said gaily, 
with her open hand still caressingly on Dorcas's waist — 

"I make a very good nun, Dorcas, as I told Stanley 
the other day. I sometimes, indeed, receive a male visitor 
at the other side of the paling, which is my grille ; but to 
change my way of life is a dream that does not trouble 
me. Happy the girl — and I am one — who cannot like 
until she is first beloved. Don't you remember poor, pale 
Winnie, the maid who used to take us on our walks all the 
summer at Dawling ; how she used to pluck the leaves 
from the flowers, like Faust's Marguerite, saying, " he 
kves me a little — passionately, not at all." Now if I 
were loved passionately, I might love a little ; and if loved 
a little — it should be not at all. And so Dorcas, as 
swains are seldom passionately in love with so small a pit- 
tance as mine, I think I shall mature into a queer old maid, 
and take all the little Wylders, masters and misses, with 
your leave, for their walks, and help to make their pina- 
fores." Whereupon Miss Dorcas put her ponies into a 
quick trot, and became absorbed in her driving. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

IN WHICH VAEIOTJS PERSONS GIVE THEIR OPINIONS 
OF CAPTAIN STANLEY LAKE. 

" Stanley is an odd creature," said Rachel, so soon as 
another slight incline brought them to a walk ; "I can't 
conceive why he has come down here, or what he can pos-- 
sibly want of that disagreeable lawyer. They have got 
dogs and gun~s, and are going, of course, to shoot ; but he 
. does not care for shooting, and I don't think Mr. Larkin's 
society can amuse him. Stanley is clever and cunning, 
but he is neither wise nor frank. He never tells me his 
plans, though he must know — he does know — I love 
him ; yes, he's a strange mixture of suspicion and impru- 
,dence. He's wonderfully reserved. If he were like 
Lord Chelford, or even like our good Vicar — not in piety, 
for poor Stanley's training, like my own, was sadly neg- 
lected there — I mean in a few manly points of character, 
I should be quite happy, I think, in my solitary nook." 

"Is he so very odd? " said Miss Brandon, coldly. 

" I only know he makes me often very uncomfortable," 
answered Rachel. " I never mind what he tells me, for 
I think he likes to mislead everybody ; and I have been 
too often duped by him to trust what he says. I only 
know that his visit to Gylingden must have been made 
with some serious purpose, and his . ideas are all so rash 
and violent." 

" He was at Donnyston for ten days, I think, when 1 
was there, and seemed clever. They had charades and 
proverbes dramatiques. I'm no judge, but the people 
who understood it, said he was very good." 



76 WYLDER'S HAMD. 

While these young ladies are discussing Stanley Lake. 
I may be permitted to mention my own estimate of that 
agreeable young person. 

Captain Xiake was a gentleman and an officer, and of 
course an honorable man ; but somehow I should not have 
liked to buy a horse from him. He was gentlemanlike in 
appearance, and even elegant; but I never liked him, 
although he undoubtedly had a superficial fascination. I 
think he was destitute of those fine moral instincts which 
are born with men, but never acquired ; and in his way 
of estimating his fellow-men, and the canons of honor, 
there was occasionally perceptible a faint flavor of the 
villanous, and an undefined savor, at times, of brimstone. 
I know, also that when his temper, which was nothing very 
remarkable, was excited, he could be savage and brutal 
enough ; and I believe he had often been violent and cow- 
ardly in his altercations with his sister — so, at least, two 
or three people, who were versed in the scandals of the 
family affirmed. His morality, however, I suppose, was 
good enough for the world, and he had never committed 
himself in any of those ways of which that respectable 
tribunal takes cognisance. 

" So that d — d fellow Lake is down here still ; and 
that stupid, scheming lubber, Larkin, driving him about 
in his tax-cart, instead of minding his business. I could 
not see him to-day. That sort of thing won't answer me ; 
and ho is staying at Larkin's house, I find." Wylder 
was talking to me on the door steps after dinner, having 
in a rather sulky way swallowed more than his usual mod- 
icum of Madeira, and his remarks were delivered interrupt- 
edly — two or three puffs of his cigar interposed between 
each sentence. 

"I suppose he expects to be asked to the wedding. 
He may expect — ha, ha, ha ! You don't know that lad 
as I do." 



WVLJOER'S HAJVn. 77 

Then there came a second cigar, and some little time 
in lighting, and full twenty enjoyable puiFs before he re- 
sumed. 

" Now, you're a moral man, Charlie, tell me rgally 
what you think of a fellow marrying a girl he does not 
care that for," and he snapt his fingers. " Just for the 
sake of her estate — it's the way of the world, of course, 
and all that — but, is not it a little bit shabby, don't you 
think ? Eh ?. Ha, ha, ha ! " 

" I'll not debate with you, Wylder, on that stupid old 
question. It's the way of the world, as you say, and 
there's an end of it." 

" They say she's such a beauty ! Well, so I believe 
she is, but I can't fancy her. Now you must not be an- 
gry. I'm not a poet like you — book-learned, you know ; 
and she's too solemn by half, and grand. I wish she 
was different. That other girl, Rachel — she's a devilish 
handsome craft. I wish almost she was not here at all, 
or I wish she was in Dorcas' shoes." 

" Nonsense, Wylder ! stop this stuff; and it is grow- 
ing cold : throw away that cigar, and come in." 

" In a minute. No, I assure you, I'm not joking. 
Hang it ! I must talk to some one. I'm devilish uncom-, 
fortable about this grand match. I wish I had not been 
led into it. I don't think I'd make a good husband to any 
woman I did not fancy, and where's the good of making a 
girl unhappy, eh ? " 

" Tut, Wylder, you ought to have thought of all that 
before. I don't like your talking in this strain when you 
know it's too late to recede ; besides, you are the luckiest 
fellow in creation. Upon my word, I don't know why 
the girl marries you ; you can't suppose that she could 
not marry much better, and if you have not made up your 
mind to break off, you had better not speak in that way 
any more." 



78 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

" Why, it was only to you, Charlie, and to tell you the 
truth, I do believe it is the best thing for me : but I sup- 
pose every fellow feels a little queer when he is going to 
be spliced, eh ? I suppose I'm a bit put out by that dis- 
reputable dog's being here — I mean Lake ; not that I 
need care more than Dorcas, or any one else ; but he's no 
credit to the family, you see, and I never could abide him. 
I've half a mind, Charlie, to tell you a thing ; but hang 
it ! you're such a demure old maid of a chap. Will you 
have a cigar? " 

"No." 

" Well, I believe two's enough for me," and he looked 
up at the stars. 

" I've a notion of running up to town, only for a day 
or two, before this business comes off, just on the sly ; 
you'll not mention it, and I'll have a word with Lake, 
quite friendly, of course ; but I'll shut him up, and that's 
all. I wonder he did not dine here to-day. Did you 
ever see so pushing a brute ? " 

So Wylder chucked away his cigar, and stood for a 
minute with his hands in his pockets, looking up at the 
stars, as if reading fortunes there. 

I had an unpleasant feeling that Mark Wylder was 
about some mischief — a suspicion that some game of 
mine and countermine was going on between him and Lake, 
to which I had no clue whatsoever. I dare say my last 
night's adventure tended to make me more nervous and 
prone to evil anticipation. And although my quarters 
*had been changed to the lower story, I grew uncomfort- 
able as it waxed late, and half regretted that 1 had not 
migrated to the " Brandon Arms." 

Uncle Lome, however, made me no visit that night. 
Once or twice I fancied something, and started up in my 
bed. It was fancy, merely. What state had I really been 



WYLDER'S HAJVn. 79 

in, -when I saw that long-chinned apparition of the pale 
portrait ? Many a wiser man than I had been mystified by 
dyspepsia and melancholic vapors. 



CHAPTER XV. 

DOECAS SHOWS HER JEWELS TO MISS LAKE. 

Stanley Lake and his sister dined next day at Brandon. 
Under the cold shadow of Lady Chelford, the proprieties 
flourished, and generally very little else. Awful she was, 
and prompt to lecture young people before their peers, and 
spoke her mind, with fearful directness and precision. But 
sometimes she would talk, and treat her hearers to her re- 
collections, and recount anecdotes with a sort of grim 
cleverness, not wholly unamusing. 

When I entered the drawing-room after dinner. Lord 
Chelford was plainly arguing a point with the young 
ladies, and by the time I drew near, it was Miss Lake's 
turn to speak. " Flattering of mankind, I am sure, I 
have no talent for ; and without flattering and wheedling 
you'll never have conjugal obedience. Don't you remem- 
ber Eobin Hood ? how — 

The mother of Kobin said to her hushand, 
My honey, my love, and my dear ! 

And all this for leave to ride with her son to see her own 
brother at Gamwell." 

" I remember," said Dorcas, with a smile. " I wonder 
what has become of that oTd book, with its odd little wood- 
cuts. 

And he said, I grant thee thy hoon, gentle Joan ! 

Take one of my horses straitway." 



80 WYLDER'S HAND. 

" Well though the book is lost, we retain the moral, 
you see," said Eachel with a little laugh ; " and it has 
always seemed to me that if it had not been necessary to 
say, ' my honey, my love, and my dear,' that good soul 
would not have said it, and you may be pretty sure that if 
she had not, and with the suitable by-pla/ too, she might 
not have ridden to Gamwell that day." 

" And you don't think you could have persuaded your- 
self to repeat that little charm, which obtained her boon 
of his horses straitway ? " said Lord Chelford. 

" Well, I don't know what a great temptation and a 
contumacious husband might bring one to ; but I'm afraid 
I'm a stubborn creature, and have not the feminine gift 
of flattery. If, indeed, he felt bis inferiority and owned 
his dependence, I think I might, perhaps, have called 
him ' my honey, my love, and my dear,' and encouraged 
and comforted him ; but to buy my personal liberty, and 
the right to visit my brother at Gamwell — never ! " 

And yet she looked, Lord Chelford thought, very good- 
humored and pleasant, and he fancied a smile from her 
might do more with some men than all gentle Joan's 
honeyed vocabulary. 

" I own," said Lord Chelford, laughing, " that, from 
prejudice, I suppose, I am in favor of the apostolic meth- 
od, and stand up for the divine right of my sex ; but then, 
don't you see, it is your own fault, if you make it a ques- 
tion of right, when you may make it altogether one of 
fascination? " 

" Who, pray, is disputing the husband's right to rule? " 
demanded old Lady Chelford unexpectedly. 

" I am very timidly defending it against very serious 
odds," answered her son. 

"Tut, tut! my dears, what's all this ; you must obey 
your husbands," cried the dowager, who put down non- 



WYLDER'S HAJYD. 81 

sense with a high hand, and had ruled her lord with a 
rod of iron, 

" That's no tradition of the Brandons," said Miss Dor- 
cas, quietly. 

"The Brandons — pooh! my dear — it is time the 
Brandons should grow like other people. Hitherto, the 
Brandon men have all, without exception, heen the wick- 
edest in all England, and the women the handsomest and 
the most self-willed. Of course the men could not be 
obeyed in all things, nor the women disobeyed. I'm a 
Brandon myself, Dorcas, so I've a right to speak. But 
the words are precise — honor and obey — and obey you 
must ; though, of course you may argue a point, if need 
be, and let your husband hear reason." 

And, having ruled the point, old Lady Chelford leaned 
back and resumed her doze. 

There was no .longer anything playful in Dorcas's look. 
On the contrary, something fierce and lurid, which I 
thought wonderfully becoming ;. and after a little she said, 

" I promised, Rachel, to show you my jewels. Come 
now — will you ? — and see them. " 

And she placed Rachel's hand on her arm, and the two 
young ladies departed. 

" Are you well, dear ? " asked Rachel when they reach- 
ed her room. 

Dorcas was very pale, and her gaze was stern, and some- 
thing undefinably wild in her quietude. 

" What day of the month is this ? " said Dorcas. 

" The eighth — is not it? — yes, the eighth," answer-, 
ed Rachel. 

" And our marriage is fixed for the twenty-second — just 
a fortnight hence. I am going to tell you, Rachel, what 
I have resolved on." 

"How really beautiful these diamonds are! — quite 
superb." 



82 WELDER'S HAJVn. 

"Yes," said Dorcas, opening the jewel-cases, which 
she had taken from her cabinet, one after the other. 

" And these pearls ! how very magnificent ! I had no 
idea Mark Wylder's taste was so exquisite." 

" Yes, very magnificent, I suppose." . 

" How chai-ming — quite regal — you will look, Dor- 
cas ! " 

Dorcas smiled strangely, and her bosom heaved a little, 
K^chel thought. Was it elation, or was there not some- 
thing wildiy bitter gleaming in that smile ? 

" I must look a little longer at these di&.monds." 

" As long, dear, as you please. You are not likely, 
Rachel, to see them again." 

. From the blue flash of the brilliants Rachel in honest 
amazement raised her eyes to her cousin's face. The same 
pale smile was there ; the look was oracular and painful. 
Had she overheard a part of that unworthy talk of 
Wylder's at the dinner-table, the day before, and mistaken 
Rachel's share in the dialogue ? 

And Dorcas said — 

" You have heard of the music on the waters that 
lures mariners to destruction. The pilot leaves the 
rudder, and leans over the prow, and listens. They steer 
no more, but drive before the wind ; and what care they 
for wreck and drowning ? " 

I suppose it was the same smile ; but in Rachel's eyes, 
as pictures will, it changed its character with her own 
change of thought, and now it seemed the pale rapt smile 
of one who hears music far off, or sees a vision. 

" Rachel, dear, I sometimes think there is an evil genius 
attendant on our family," continued Dorcas, in the same 
subdued tone, which, in its very sweetness, had so sinister 
a sound in Rachel's ear. " From mother to child, from 
child to grandchild, the same influence continues, and, one 



WYLDER'S HAJVn. 83 

after another, -wrecks the daughters of our family. Here 
I stand, forwarned, with my eyes open, determinedly fol- ^ 
lowing in the funereal footsteps of- those who have gone 
their way before me. These jewels all go back to Mr. 
Wylder. He never can be anything to me. I was, I 
thought, to build up our house. I am going, I think, to 
lay it in the dust. With the spirit of the insane, I feel the 
spirit of a prophetess, too, and I see the sorrow that awaits 
me. You will see." 

" Dorcas, darling, you are certainly ill. What is the 
matter ? '' 

" No, dear Rachel, not ill, only maybe agitated a little. 
You must not touch the bell — listen to me ; but first 
promise, so help you Heaven, you will keep my , se- 
cret." 

" I do promise, indeed Dorcas, I swear I'll not repeat 
one word you tell me." 

" It has been a vain struggle. I know he's a bad man, 
a worthless man — selfish, cruel, maybe. Love is not blind 
with me, but quite insane. He does not know, nor you, 
nor any one ; and now, Rachel, I tell you what was un- 
know to all but myself and Heaven — looking neither for 
counsel, nor for pity, nor for sympathy, but because I 
must, and you have sworn to keep my secret. I love 
your brother. Rachel, you must try to like tne." 

She threw her arms round her cousin's neck, and 
Rachel felt in her embrace the vibration of an agony. 

She was herself so astonished that for a good while she 
could hardly collect her thoughts or believe her senses. 
Was it credible ? Stanley ! whom she had received with 
a coldness, if not aversion, so marked, that, if he had a 
spark of Rachel's spirit, he would never have approached 
her more ! Then came the thought — perhaps they un- 
derstood one another, and that was the meaning of Stanley's 
unexpected visit? 



84 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" Well Dorcas, dear, I am utterly amazed. But does 
Stanley — he can hardly hope ? " 

Dorcas removed her arms from her cousin's neck ; her 
face was pale, and her cheeks wet with tears, which she 
did not wipe away. 

" Sit down hy me, Rachel. No, he does not like me 
— that is — I don't know; but, I am sure, he can't sus- 
pect that I like him. It was my determination it should 
not be. I resolved, Rachel, quite to extinguish the mad- 
ness ; but I could not. It was not his doing, nor mine, 
but something else. There are some families, I think, too 
wicked for Heaven to protect, and they are given over to 
the arts of those who hated them in life and pursue them 
after death ; and this is the meaning of the curse that has 
always followed us. No good will ever happen us^ and I 
must go like the rest." 

There was a short silence, and Rachel gazed on the car- 
pet in troubled reflection, and then, with an anxio us look, 
she took her cousin's hand, and said — 

" Dorcas, you must think of this no more. I am 
speaking against my brother's interest. But you must 
not sacrifice yourself, your fortune, and your happiness 
to a shadow ; whatever his means are, they hardly suffice 
for his personal expenses — indeed, they don't suffice, for 
I have had to help him. But that is all trifling compared 
with other considerations. I am his sister, and. though he 
has shown little love for me, I am not without aff'ection — 
and strong afffection — for him ; but I must and will speak 
frankly. You could not, I don't think any one could be 
happy with Stanley for her husband. You don't know 
him : he's profligate ; he's ill-tempered ; he's cold ; he's sel- 
fish ; he's secret. He was a spoiled boy, totally without mor- 
al education ; he might, perhaps, have been very different, 
but he is what he is, and I don't think he'll ever chancre." 



WYLDER'S HAJYD. 85 

"lie may be what he will. It is vain reasoning with 
that which is not reason ; possibly he may never know, 
and that might be best — but be it how it may, I will never 
marry any one else." 

" Dorcas, dear, you must not speak to Lady Chelford, 
or to Mark Wylder, to-night. It is too serious a step to 
be taken in haste." 

" There has been no haste, Rachel, and there can be no 
change." 

" And what reason can you give ? " 

" None ; no reason,'' said Dorcas, slowly. 

" Wylder would have been suitable in point of wealth. 
Not so well, I am sure, as you might have married ; but 
neither would he be a good husband, though not so bad as 
Stanley ; and I do not think that Mark Wylder will 
quietly submit to his disappointment." 

" It was to have been simply a marriage of two estates. 
It was old Lady Chelford's plan. I have now formed 
mine, and all that's over. Let him do what he will — I 
believe a lawsuit is his worst revenge — I'm indiffer- 
ent." 

Just then a knock came to the chamber door. 

" Come in," said Miss Brandon; and her maid entered 
to say that the carriage was at the door to take Miss 
Lake home. 

" I had no idea it was so late," said Rachel. 

" Stay, dear, don't go for a moment. Jones, bring Miss 
Lake's cloak and bonnet here. And now, dear," she said, 
after a little pause, " you'll remember your solemn pro- 
mise ? " 

" I never broke my word, dear Dorcas ; your secret is 
safe." 

" And, Rachel, try to like me." 

" I love you better, Dorcas, than I thought I ever could. 
Good night, dear." 



86 WVLDER'S HAJVn. 

And the young ladies parted with a kiss, and then 
another. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

"jenny, put the kettle on." 

Old Lady Chelford, having despatched a sharp and 
unceremonious message to her young kinswoman, absent 
■without leave, warning her, in effect, that if she returned 
to the drawing-room it would be to preside, alone, over 
gentlemen, departed, somewhat to our secret relief. 

Upon this, on Lord Chelford's motion, in our forlorn 
condition, we went to the billiard-room, and there, under 
the bright lights, and the gay influence of that wonderful 
game, we forgot our cares, and became excellent friends 
apparently — Lord Chelford joked, Wylder "chaffed," 
even Lake seemed to enjoy himself; and the game pro- 
ceeded with animation and no lack of laughter, beguiling 
the watches of the night ; and we were all amazed, at 
length, to find how very late it was. So we laid down 
our cues, with the customary ejaculations of surprise. 

We declined wine and water, and all other creature com- 
forts. "Wylder and Lake had a walk before them, and we 
bid Lord Chelford " good night" in the passage, and I 
walked with them through the deserted and nearly dark- 
ened rooms. 

Our talk grew slow, and our spirits subsided in this 
changed and tenebrose scenery. The void and the dark- 
ness brought back, I suppose, my recollection of the du- 
bious terms on which these young men stood, and a feel- 
ing of the hollowness and delusion of the genial hours 



WYLDER'S HAJVn. 



87 



just passed under the brilliant lights, together with an 
unpleasant sense of apprehension. I suspect that Wylder 
and Lake, too, felt something of the same ominous qualm, 
for I thought their faces looked gloomy in the light, as 
they stood together buttoning their loose wrappers and 
lighting their cigars. 

With a " good night, good night," we parted, and I 
heard their retreating steps crunching along the walk that 
led to Redman's Hollow, and by Miss Rachel's quiet hab- 
itation. I heard no talking, such as comes between whiffs 
with friendly smokers, side by side ; and, silent as mutes 
at a funpral, they walked on, and soon the fall of their 
footsteps was heard no more, and I re-entered the hall and 
shut the door. The level moonlight was shining through 
the stained heraldic window, and fell bright on the por- 
trait of Uncle Lome, at th^ other end, throwing a patch 
of red, like a stain, on one side of its pale forehead. 

I had forgot, at the moment, that the ill-omened portrait 
hung there, and a sudden horror smote me. I thought of 
what my vision said of the " blood upon my forehead," 
and, by Jove ! there it was ! 

At this moment the large white Marseilles waistcoat of 
grave Mr. Larcom appeared, followed by a tall powdered 
footman, and their candles and business-like proceedings 
frightened away the phantoms. So I withdrew to my 
chamber, where, I am glad to say, I saw nothing of Uncle 
Lome. 

Miss Lake, as she drove that night, toward Gylingden, 
said little to the Vicar's wife, whose good husband had 
been away to Friars, making a sick-call, and she prattled 
on very merrily about his frugal little tea awaiting his 
late return, and asked her twice on the way home wheth- 
er it was half-past nine, for she did not boast a watch ; 
and in the midst of her prattle was peeping at the land- 
marks of their progress. 



88 WYLDER'S HAJVI). 

"■ Oh, I'm so glad — here's the finger post, at last ! " 
and then — " Well, here we are at the " Cat and Fiddle ; " 
I thought we'd never pass it." 

And, at last, the brougham' stopped at the little garden- 
gate, at the far end of the village ; and the good little 
mamma called to her maid-of-all-work from the window — 

" Has the master come yet, Becky ? " 

" No, ma'am, please." 

And I think she offered up a little thanksgiving she so 
longed to give him his tea herself: and then she asked — 

" Is our precious mannikin asleep ? " Which also be- 
ing answered happily, as it should be, she bid her fussy 
adieux, with a merry smile, and hurried across the little 
flower-garden ; and Miss Lake was shut in and drove on 
alone, under the thick canopy of old trees, and up the 
mill-road, lighted by the flashing lamps, to her own little 
precincts, and was, in turn, at home — solitary, triste, but 
still her home. 

" Get to your bed, Margery, child, you are sleepy," 
said the young lady kindly to her queer little maid-of- 
honor. Rachel was one of those persons who, no matter 
what may be upon their minds, ar& quickly impressible 
by the scenes in which they find tiiemselves. She stepped 
into her little kitchen — and she looked all round and 
smiled pleasantly, and kissed old Tamar, and said — 

" So, my dear old fairy, here's your Cinderella home 
again from the ball, and I've seen nothing so pretty as 
this since I left Redman's Farm. How white your table 
is, how nice your chairs ; I wish you'd change with me 
and let me be cook week about ; and, really the^ fire is 
quite pleasant to-night. Come, make a cup of tea, and 
tell us a story, and frighten me and Margery before we 
go to our beds. Sit down, Margery, I'm only here by 
permission. What do you mean by standing ? " And the 



WVLDER'S SAJVV. 89 

young lady, with a laugh, sat down, looking so pleased, 
and good-natured, and merry, that even old Tamar was 
fain to smile a glimmering smile ; and little Margery ac- 
tively brought the tea-caddy : and the kettle being in a 
skittish, singing state, quickly went off in a boil, and Ta- 
mar actually made tea in her brown tea-pot. 

"Oh, no; the delft cups and saucers; — it will be 
twice as good in them ; " and as the handsome mistress of 
the mansion, sitting in the deal chair, loosened her cloak 
and untied her bofanet, she chatted away, to the edifica- 
tion of Margery and the amusement of both. 

This little extemporised bivouac, as it were, with her 
domestics, delighted the young belle. What saloon was 
ever so cheery- as this, or flashed all over in so small a 
light so splendidly, or yielded such immortal nectar from 
chased teapot and urn, as this brewed in brown crockery 
from the roaring kettle ? 

So Margery sitting upon her stool in the back-ground 
— for the queen had said it, and sit she must — and grin- 
ning from ear to ear, in a great halo of glory, partook of 
tea. 

" "Well, Tamar, where's your story ? " said the young 
lady. 

" Story ! La ! bless you, dear Miss Radio, where 
should I find a story ? My old head's a poor one to re- 
member," whimpered white Tamar. 

" Anything, no matter what — a ghost or a murder." 

Old Tamar shook her head. 

" Or an elopement ? " 

Another shake of the head. 

" Or a mystery — or even a dream ?• " 

"Well — a dream! Sometimes I do dream. I dreamed 
how Master Stanley was coming, the night before." 

"You did, did you? Selfish old thing! and you 
meant to keep it all to yourself. What was it ? " 



90 WYLDER'S HAJYD. 

Tamar looked anxiously and suspiciously in the kitch- 
en fire, and placed her puckered hand to the side of her 
■white linen cap. 

" I dreamed, ma'am, the night before he came, a great 
fellow was at the hall-door." 

"What! here?" 

" Yes, ma'am, this hall-door. So mufiBed up I could 
not see his face ; and he pulls out a letter all over red." 

"Eedink?" 

" No, miss, red paper, written with black, and directed 
for you." 

" Oh ! " 

" And so, miss, in my dream, I gave it you in the 
drawing-room; and you; opened it. and leaned your hand 
upon your head, sick-like, reading it. I never saw you 
read a letter so serious-like before. And says you to me, 
miss, " It's all about Master Stanley ; he is coming." And 
sure enough, here he was, quite unexpected, next morning." 

" And was there no more ? " asked Miss Lake. 

" No more, miss. I awoke just then." 

" It is odd," said Miss Lake, with a little laugh. 
" Had you been thinking of him lately ? " 

" Not a bit ma'am. I don't know when." 

" Well, it certainly is very odd. 

At all events, it had glanced upon a sensitive recollec- 
tion unexpectedly. The kitchen was only a kitchen now; 
and the young lady, on a sudden;" looked thoughtful — 
perhaps a little sad. 

" Light the candles in the drawing-room, Margery, and 
then, child, go to your bed," said the young lady, awaken- 
ing from an abstraction. " I don't mind dreams, Tamar, 
nor fortune-tellers — I've dreamed so many good dreams, 
and no good ever came of them. But talking of Stanley 
reminds me of trouble and follies that I can't help, or 



WYLDER'S HAJSTD gj 

prevent. He has left the army, Tamar, and I don't know 
■what his plans are." 

" Ah ! poor child ; he -was always foolish and changea- 
ble, and a deal too innocent for them wicked officer- 
gentlemen ; and I'm glad he's not among them any longer 
to learn bad ways — I am." 

So, the drawing-room being prepared, Rachel bid Ta- 
mar and little Margery good-night, and the sleepy little 
handmaid stumped off to her bed ; and white old Tamar, 
Avho had not spoken so much for a month before, p\jt on 
her solemn round spectacles, and by her dipt candle read 
her chapter in the ponderous Bible she had thumbed scJ 
well, and her white lips told over the words as she read 
them in silence. 

It was a small hoase, this Redman's Farm, but very 
silent, for all that, when the day's work was over ; and 
very solemn, too, the look-out from the window among the 
colonnades of tall old trees, on the overshadowed earth, and 
through them into deepest darkness ; the complaining of 
the lonely stream far down is the only sound in the air. 

There was but one imperfect vista, looking down the 
glen, and this 'aiSbrded no distant view — only a down- 
ward slant in the near woodland, and a denser back^ground 
of forest rising at the other side, and to-night mistily gild- 
ed by the yellow moonbeams, the moon herself unseen. 

Rachel had opened her window-shutters, as was hgr 
wont when the moon was up, and with her small white 
hands on the window-sash, looked into the wooded soli- 
tudes, lost in haunted darkness in every direction but one, 
and there massed in vaporous and discolored foliage, hard- 
ly more distinct, or less solemn. 

" Poor old Tamar says her prayers, and reads her Bi- 
ble ; I wish / could. How often I wish it. That good, 
simple Vicar — how unlike his brother — is wiser, per- 



92 WYLDER'S HAJVJ}. 

baps, than all the shrewd people that smile at him. He 
used to talk to me ; but I've lost that — yes — I let bim 
understand I did not care for it, and so that good influ- 
ence is gone from me — graceless creature. No one 
seemed to care, except poor old Tamar, whether I ever 
said a prayer, or heard any good thing ; and when I was 
no more than ten years old, I refused to say my prayers 
for her. My poor father. Well, Heaven help us all." 

So she stood in the same sad attitude, looking out upon' 
the shadowy scene, in a forlorn reverie. 

Her interview with Dorcas remained on her memory like 
an odd, clear, half-horrible dream. What a dazzling pros- 
pect it opened for Stanley ; what a dreadful one might it 
not prepare for Dorcas. What might not arise from such 
a situation between Stanley and Mark Wylder, each in 
his way a worthy representative of the ill-conditioned and 
terrible race whose blood he inherited ? Was this doomed 
house of Brandon never to know repose or fraternity ? 

Was it credible ? Had it actually occurred, that strange 
confession of Dorcas Brandon's ? 

" Wbat can she see in him ? There's nothing remark- 
able in Stanley, poor fellow, except his faults. There 
are much handsomer men than he, and many as amusing 
— and he with no estate." 

Rachel was troubled by a sort of fear to-night, and the 
low fever of an undefined expectation was upon her. She 
turned from the window, intending to write two letters, 
which she had owed too long — young lady's letters^ and 
as she turned, with a start, she saw old Tamar standing 
in the door-way, looking at her. 

" Tamar ! " 

" Yes, Miss Rachel." 

" Why do you come so softly, Tamar ? Do you know, 
you frightened me ? " 



WYLDER'S HAJ^D. 93 

" I thought I'd look in, miss, before I went to bed, just 
to see if you wanted anything." 

" No — nothing, thank you, dear Tamar." 

" And I don't think, Miss Eachel, you are quite well 
to-night, though you are so gay — you're pale, dear ; 
and there's something on your mind. Don't be thinking 
about Master Stanley ; he's out of the army now, and I'm 
thankful for it ; and make your mind easy about him ; and 
■would not it be better, dear, you went to your bed, you 
rise so early." 

" Very true, good old Tamar, but to-night I must write 
a letter — not a long one, though — and I assure you, I'm 
quite well. Good-night, Tamar." 

Tamar stood for a moment with her odd weird look upon 
her, and then bidding her good-night, glided stiffly away, 
shutting the door. 

So Rachel sat down to her desk and began to write ; but 
she could not get into the spirit of her letter ; her mind 
wandered away, and she found herself listening, every now 
and then, and at last she fancied that old Tamar, about 
whom that dream, and her unexpected appearance at the 
door, had given her a sort of spectral feeling that night, 
was up and watching her ; and the idea of this white 
sentinel outside her door excited her so uftpleasantly,, that 
she opened it, "but found no Tamar there ; and then she 
revisited the kitchen, but that was empty too, and the fire 
taken down. And, finally, she passed into the old woman's 
bed-chamber, whom she saw, her white head upon her 
pillow, dreaming again, perhaps. And so, softly closing 
her door, she left her to her queer visions and deathlike 
slumber. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

EACHEL LAKE SEES WONDERFUL THINGS BY MOON- 
LIGHT EROM HER WINDOW. 

Though Rachel was unfit for letter-writing, she was 
still more unfit for slumber. She leaned her temple on 
her hand, and her rich light hair half covered her fingers, 
and her amazing interview with Dorcas was again present 
with her, and the same feeling of bewilderment. 

It was late now, not far from one o'clock, and around 
her the terrible silence of a still night. All those small 
sounds lost in the hum of mid-day life now came into 
relief — a ticking in the wainscot, a crack now and then in 
the joining of the furniture, and occasionally the tap of a 
moth against the window pane from outside, sounds sharp 
and odd, which made her wish the stillness of the night 
were not so intense. 

As from her little table she looked listlessly through the 
window, she saw against the faint glow of the moonlight, 
the figure of a man who seized the paling and vaulted 
into the flower garden, and with a few swift, stumbling 
strides over the flower-beds, reached the window, and 
placing his pale face close to the glass, she saw his eyes 
glittering through it ; he tapped — or rather beat on the 
pane with his fingers — and at the same time he said, re- 
peatedly : "Let me in; let me in." 

Her first impression, when she saw this person cross 
the little fence at the road-side was, that Mark "Wylder 
was the man. But she was mistaken ; the face and figure 
were Stanley Lake's. 

She would have screamed in the extremity of her terror, 



WVLDER'S HAJVn. 95 

but that her voice for some seconds totally failed her <; and 
recognising her brother, she rose up, and with an awful 
ejaculation, she approached the window. 

" Let mein, Radie; d — you, let me in," he repeated, 
drumming incessantly on the glass. There was no trace 
now of his sleepy jeering way. Rachel saw that some- 
thing was very wrong, and beckoned him toward the 
porch in silence, and having removed the slender fasten- 
ings of the door, it opened, and he entered in a rush of 
damp night air. She took him by the hand, and he shook 
hers mechanically, like a man rescued from shipwreck, 
and plainly not recollecting himself well. 

" Stanley, dear, what's the matter, in Heaven's 
name ? " she whispered, so soon as she had got him into . 
her little drawing-room. 

"He has done it; d — him, he has done it," gasped 
Stanley Lake. 

He looked in her face with a glazed and ashy stare. 
His hat remained on his head, overshadowing his face ; and 
his boots were soiled with clay, and his wrapping coat 
marked, here and there, with the green of the stems and 
branches of trees, through which he had made his way. 

"I see, Stanley, you've had a scene with MarK Wylder ; 
I warned you of your danger — you have had the worst 
of it." 

" I spoke to him. He took a course I did not expect. 
I'm not well." 

" You've broken your promise. I see you have used me. 
How base ; how stupid ! " 

" D — him ; I wish I had done as you said. I wish I 
had never come here. Give me a glass of wine. He has 
ruined me.'' 

" You cruel, wretched creature ! " said Rachel, now 
convinced that he had compromised her as he threatened. 



96 JVVLDER'S HJlJVI). 

" Yes, I was wrong ; I'm sorry ; things have turned out 
different. Who's that?" said Lake, grasping her wrist. 

«' Who —where — Mark Wylder ? " 

" No ; it's nothing, I believe." 

" Where is he ? Where have you left him ? " 

" Up there, at the pathway, near the stone steps." 

" Waiting there ? " 

" Well, yes ; and I don't think I'll go back, Eadie." 

"You shall go hack, sir, and carry my message; or, 
no, I could not trust you. I'll go with you and see him, 
and disabuse him. How could you — how could you, 
Stanley? " 

" It was a mistake, altogether ; I'm sorry, but I could 
not tell there was such a devil on the earth." 

" Yes, I told you so. He has frightened you," said 
Rachel. 

" He has maybe. At any rate, I was a fool, and I 
think I'm ruined ; and I'm afraid, Rachel, you'll be incon- 
venienced too." 

" Yes, you have made him brutal ; and between you, 
I shall be called in question, you wretched fool ! " 

Stanley was taking these hard terms very meekly for a 
savage young coxcomb like him. Perhaps they bore no 
very distinct meaning just then to his mind. Perhaps it 
was preoccupied with more exciting ideas ; or, it may be, 
his agitation and fear cried "amen" to the reproach; at 
all events, he only said, in a pettish but deprecatory sort 
of way — 

"Well, Where's the good of scolding; how can I help it 
now ? " 

" What's your quarrel ? why does he wait for you there ? 
why has he sent you here ? It must concern «ie, sir, and 
I insist on hearing it all." 

" So you shall. Radio ; only have patience just a 



WYLDER'S HAjYD. 



97 



minute — and give me a little wine or water — any- 
thing." 

" There is the key. There's, some wine in the press, I 
think." 

He tried to open it, but his hand shook. He saw his 
sister look at him, and he flung the keys on phe table rather 
savagely, with, I dare say, a curse between his teeth. 

Rachel took the key with a faint gleam of scorn on her 
face, and brought out the wine in silence. 

He took a tall-stemmed Venetian glass that stood upon 
the cabinet, an antique decoration, and filled it with sherry 
— a strange revival of old service ! How long was it since 
lips had touched its brim before, and whose ? Lovers', 
maybe, and how ? How long since that cold crystal had 
glowed with the ripples of wine ? This, at all events, 
was its last service. It is an old legend of the Venetian 
glass — its shivering at touch of poison ; and there are 
those of whom it is said, " the poison of asps is under their 
lips." 

" What's that ? " ejaculated Rachel, with a sudden 
shriek — that whispered shriek, so expressive and ghastly, 
that you, perhaps, have once heard in your life — and her 
very lips grew white. 

" Hollo ! " cried Lake. He was standing with his back 
to the window, and sprang forward, as pale as she, and 
grasped her, with a white leer that she never fQrgot, over 
his shoulder, and the Venice glass was shivered on the 
ground. 

" Who's there ? " he whispered. 

And Rachel, in a whisper, ejaculated the awful name 
that must not be taken in vain. 

She sat down. She was looking at him with a wild, 

stern stare, straight in the face, and he still holding her 

arm, and close to her. 
6 



98 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" I see it all now," she whispered. 

" Who — what — what is it ? " said he. 

" I could not have fancied thai," she whispered with a 
gasp. 

Stanley looked round him with pale and sharpened fea- 
tures. 

" What the devil is it ? If that scoundrel had come to 
kill us you could not cry out louder," he whispered, with 
an oath. " Do you want to wake your people up ? " 

" Oh ! Stanley," she repeated, in a changed and 
horror-stricken way, " What a fool I've been. I see it at 
last"; I see it all now," and she waved her white hands 
together very slowly towards him, as mesmerisers move 
theirs. 

There was a silence of some seconds, and his yellow 
ferine gaze met hers strangely. 

" You were always a sharp girl, Radie, and I think 
you do see it." he said at last, very quietly. 

" The witness — the witness — the dreadful witness ! " 
she repeated. 

" I'll show you, though, it's not so bad as you fancy. 
I'm sorry I did not take your advice ; but how, I say, 
could I know he was such a devil. I must go back to him. 
I only came down to tell you, because Radie, you know 
you proposed it yourself ; yott must come too — you must 
Radie." . 

" Oh, Stanley, Stanley, Stanley ! " 

" Why, d — it, it can't be helped now ; can it? " said 
he, with a peevish malignity. But she was right ; there 
was something of the poltroon in him, and he was trem- 
bling. 

" Why could you not leave me in peace, Stanley? " 

" I can't go without you, Rachel. I won't ; and if wo 
don't we're both ruined," he said, with a bleak oath. 



WVLDER'S HAMD. 99 

" Yes, Stanley, I knew you were a coward," she re- 
plied, fiercely and wildly. 

"You're always calling names, d — you; do as you 
like. I care less than you think how it goes." 

" No, Stanley ; you know me too well. Ah ! No, you 
shan't be lost if I can help it." Eachel shook her head 
as she spoke, with a bitter smile and a dreadful sigh. 

Then they whispered together for three or four minutes, 
and Rachel clasped her jewelled fingers tight across her 
forehead, quite wildly, for a minute. 

» You'll come then ? " said Stanley. 

She made no answer, and he repeated the question. 

By this time she was standing ; and without answering, 
she began mechanically to get on her cloak and hat. 

" You must drink some wine first ; he may frighten you, 
perhaps. You must take it, Rachel, or I'll not go." 

Rachel seemed to have made up her mind -to submit 
passively to whatever he required. Perhaps, indeed, she 
thought there was wisdom in his advice. At all events she 
drank some wine. 

Rachel Lake was one of those women who never lose 
their presence of mind, even under violent agitation, for 
long, and who generally, even when highly excited, see, 
and do instinctively, and with decision, what is best to be 
done ; and now, with dilated eyes and white face, she 
walked noiselessly into the kitchen, listened there for a 
moment, then stole lightly to the servants' sleeping-room, 
and listened there at the door, and lastly looked in, and 
satisfied herself that both were still sleeping. Then as 
cautiously and swiftly she returned to her drawing-room, 
and closed- the window-shutters and drew the curtain, and 
signalling to her brother they went stealthily forth into 
the night air, closing the hall-door, and through the little 
garden, at the outer gate of which they paused. 



100 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

" I don't know, Racbfel ^- I don't like it — I'm not fit 
for it. Go back again — go in and lock your door — 
we'll not go to him — you need not, you know. He may 
stay where he is- — let him — I'll not return. I'll get, 
away. I'll consult Larkin — shall I ? Though that 
won't do — he's in Wylder's interest — curse hirn. What 
had I best do ? I'm not equal to it." 

" We mtisl go, Stanley. You said right just no-ff ; be 
resolute — we are both ruined unless we go. You have 
brought it to that — you must come.'' 

" I'm not fit for it, I tell you — I'm not. You were 
right, Radie — I think I'm not equal to a business of this 
sort, and I won't expose you to such a scene. Ybw're 
not equal to it either, I think," and Lake leaned on the 
paling. 

"Don't mind me — you haven't much hitherto. Go 
or Stay, I'm equally ruined now, but not equally disgraced ; 
and go we must, for it is your only chance of escape. 
Come, Stanley — for shame ! " 

In a few minutes more they were walking in deep dark- 
ness and silence, side by side, along the path, which di- 
verging from the mill-road, penetrates the coppice of that 
sequestered gorge, along the bottom of which flows a trib- 
utary brook that finds its way a little lower down into the 
mill-stream. This deep gully in character a good deal 
resembles Redman's Glen, into which it passes, being ful- 
ly as deep, and wooded to the summit at both sides, but 
much steeper arid narrower, and therefore many shades 
darker. 

They had now reached those rude stone steps, some ten 
or fifteen in number, which conduct the narrow footpath 
up a particularly steep acclivity, and here Lake lost cour- 
age again, for they distinctly heard the footsteps that 
paced the platform above. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 



MARK WYIDER S SLAVE. 



Nearly two hours had passed before they returned. 
As they did so, Rachel Lake went swiftly and silently 
before her brother. The moon had gone down, and the 
glen was darker than ever. Noiselessly they re-entered 
the little hall of Redman's Farm. The candles were still 
burning; in the sitting-room, and the light was dazzling 
after the profound darkness in which they had been for so 
long. 

Rachel sat down. No living woman ever showed a paler 
face, and she stared with a look that was sharp and stern 
upon the wainscot before her. 

For some minutes they were silent ; and suddenly, with 
an exceeding bitter cry, she stood up, close to him, seizing 
him in her tiny hands by the collar, and with wild eyes 
gazing into his, she said — 

"See what you've brought me to — wretch, wretch, 
wretch ! " 

And she shook him with violence as she spoke. It was 
wonderful how that fair young face could look so terrible. 

"-There, Radie, there," said Lake, disengaging her 
fingers. " You're a little hysterical, that's all. It will 
be over in a minute ; but don't make a row. You're a 
good girl, Radie. For Heaven's sake, don't spoil all by 
folly now." 

He "was overawed and deprecatory. 

" A slave ; only think — a slave ! Oh frightful, fright- 



102 WYLDER'S HAJ\-D. 

fill ! Is it a dream ? Oh frightful, frightful ! Stanley, 
Stanley, it -would be mercy to kill me," she broke out 
again. 

" Now, Eadie, listen to reason, and don't make a noise ; 
you knoTV we agreed, you must go, and I can't go with 

you." 

Lake was cooler by this time, and his sister more excited 
than before they went out. 

" I used to be brave ; my courage I think is gone ; but 
who'd have imagined what's before me ? " 

Stanley walked to the window and opened the shutter a 
little. He forgot how dark it was. The moon had gone 
down. He looked at his watch, and then at Rachel. She 
was sitting, and in no calmer state ; serene enough in at- 
titude, but the terribly wild look was unchanged. He 
looked at his watch again, and held it to his ear, and con- 
sulted it once more before he placed the tiny gold disk 
again in his pocket. 

" This won't do," he muttered. 

With one of the candles in his hand he went out and 
made a hurried, peeping exploration, and soon, for the 
rooms were quickly counted in Redman's Farm, he found 
her chamber, small, neat, simplex mundiiiis. Bright 
and natty were the chintz curtains, and the little toilet set 
out, not inelegantly, and her pet piping-goldfinch asleep 
on his perch, with his bit of sugar between the wires of 
his cage ; her pillow so white and unpressed, with its little 
edging of lace. Were slumbers sweet as of old ever to 
know it more ? What dreams were henceforward to haunt 
it ? Shadows were standing about that ' lonely bed 
, already. 

When he came back to the drawing-room, a toilet bottle 
of eau de cologne in his hand, with her lace handkerchief 
he bathed her temples and forehead. There was nothing 



WYLDER'S HAjYD. 



103 



Tery brotherly in his look as he peered into her pale, sharp 
features, during the process. It was dark and pallid scru- 
tiny of a familiar of the Holy OfSce, bringing a victim 
back to consciousness. 

She was quickly better. 

" There, don't mind me," she said sharply ; and getting 
up she looked down at her dress and thin shoes, and seem- 
ing to recollect herself, she took the candle he had just set 
down, and went swiftly to her room. 

Gliding without noise from place to place, she packed a 
small black leather bag with a few necessary articles, 
changed her dress quickly, put on walking boots, a close 
bonnet and thick veil, and taking her purse, she counted 
over its contents, and then standing in the midst of the 
room looked round it with a great sigh, and strange look, 
as if it was all new to her. And she threw bagk her veil, 
and going hurriedly to the toilet, mechanically surveyed 
herself in the glass. And she looked fiddly on the pale 
features presented to her, and said — 

" Rachel Lake, Rachel Lake ! what are you now ? " 

A few minutes later her brother, who had been busy 
down stairs, put his head in and asked — 

" Will you come with me now, Radio, or do you prefer 
to wait here ? " 

" I'll stay here — that is, in the drawifig-room," she 
answered, and the face was withdrawn. 

In the little hall Stanley looked again at his watch, and 
getting quietly out, went swiftly through the tiny garden, 
and once upon the mill-road, ran at a rapid pace down to- 
wards the town. 

The long street of Gylingden stretched dim and s^jgj^ 
before him. Slumber brooded over the little town, and 
his steps sounded sharp and hollow among the houses. He 
slackened his pace, and tapped sharply at the little window 



104 WVLDER'S HAJVn. 

of that modest post-office, at which the young ladies in the 
pony carriage had pulled up the day before, and within 
which Luke Waggot was wont to sleep in a sort of wooden 
box that folded up and appeared to be a chest of drawers 
all day. Luke took care of Mr. Larkin's dogs, and 
groomed Mr. Wylder's horse, and " cleaned up" his dog- 
cart, for Mark being close about money, and finding that 
the thing was to be done more cheaply that way, put up 
his horse and dog-cart in the post-office premises, and so 
evaded the livery charges of the •' Brandon Arms." 

But Luke was not there ; and Captain Lake recollecting 
his habits and his iaunt, hurried on to the " Silver Lion," 
which has its gable towards the common, only about a 
hundred steps away, for distances are not great in Gyling- 
den. Here were the flow of soul and of stout, long pipes, 
long yarns, and tolerably long credits ; and the humble 
scapegraces of. the town restored thither for the pleasures 
of a club-life, and often revelled deep into the small hours 
of the morning. 

So Luke came forth. 

" D — it where's the note ? " said the Captain, rummag- 
ing uneasily in his pockets. 

" You know me — eh ? " 

" Captain Lake. Yes, sir," 

"Well— oh! here it is." 

It was a scrap pencilled on the back of a letter — 

"Luke Waggot,— Put the horse to and drive the 
dog-cart to the " White House." Look out for me there. 
We must catch the up mail train at Dollington. Be live- 
ly. If Captain Lake chooses to drive you need not come. 

X 'M. Wylder." 

" I'll drive," said Captain Lake. " Lose no time and 
I'll give you half-a-crown." 



WELDER'S H^J\rj3. 105 

Luke stuck on his greasy wideawake, and in a few min- 
utes more the dog-cart was trundled out into the lane, and 
the horse harnessed. 

" Easily earned, Luke," said Captain Lake, in his soft 
tones. 

The Captain had buttoned the collar of his loose coat 
across his face, and it was dark beside. But Luke knew 
his peculiar smile, and presumed it ; so he grinned facetious- 
ly as he put the coin in his breeches pocket and thanked 
him ; and in another minute, the Captain, with a lighted 
cigar between his lips, mounted to the seat, took the reins, 
the horse bounded off, and away rattled the light convey- 
ance, sparks flying from the road, down the deserted street 
of Gylingden, and quickly melted in darkness. 

That night a spectre stood by old Tamar's bedside, in 
shape of her young mistress, and shook her by the shoul- 
der, and stooping, said sternly, close in her face — 

" Tamar, I'm going away — only for a few days ; and 
mind this — I'd rather be dead than any creature living 
should know it. Little Margery must not suspect — 
you'll manage that. Here's the key of my bed-room — 
say I'm sick — and you must go in and out, and bring 
tea and drinks, and talk and whisper a little, you under- 
stand, as you might with a sick person, and keep the 
shutters closed ; and if Miss Brandon sends to ask me to 
the Hall, say I've a headache, and fear I can't go. You 
understand me clearly, Tamar ? " 

" Yes, Miss Kadie," answered old Tamar, wonder- 
stricken, with a strange expression of fear in her face. 

"And listen," she continued, "you must go into my 
room, and bring the message back, as if from me, with 
my love to Miss Brandon ; and if she or the Vicar's lady 
should call to see me, always say I'm asleep and a little 
better. You see exactly what I mean ? " 



106 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

"Yes, miss," answered Tamar, whose eyes were fixed, 
with a sort of fascination, full on those of her mistress. 

" If Master Stanley should call, he is to do just as he 
pleases. You used to be accurate, Tamar ; may I depend 
upon you ? " 

" Yes, ma'am, certainly." 

" If I thought you'd fail me now, Tamar, I should new- 
er come back. Good night, Tamar. There — don't bless 
me. Good night." 

When the light wheels of the dog-cart gritted, on the 
mill-road before the little garden gate of Redman's Farm, 
the tall slender figure of Rachel Lake,was dimly visible, 
standing cloaked and waiting by it. Silently she handed 
her little black leather bag to her brother, and then there 
was a pause. He stretched his hand to help her up. In 
a tone that was icy and bitter, she said — 

" To save myself I would not do it. You deserve no 
love from me — you've showed me none — never, Stanley ; 
and yet I'm going to give the most desperate proof of love 
that ever sister gave — all for your sake ; and it's guilt, 
guilt, but mj fate, and I'll go, and you'll never thank 
me ; that's all." 

In a moment more she sat beside him ; and silent as the 
dead in Charon's boat, away they glided toward the 
" White House " which lay upon the high road to Dolling- 
ton. 

The sleepy clerk that night in the Dollington station 
stamped two first-class tickets for London, one of which 
was for a gentleman, the other for a cloaked lady, with a 
very thick veil, who stood outside on the platform. 



CHAPTER XIX. 



THE TARN IN THE PARK. 



Next morning Stanley Late,' at breakfast with the 
lawyer, said — 

" A pretty room this is. That bow window is worth all 
the pictures in Brandon. To my eye there is no scenery 
so sweet as this, at letisfr to^breakfast by. These undula- 
tions, and all that splendid timber, and the glorious ruins 
on that hillock over there ! How many beautiful ruins 
that picturesque old fellow Cromwell has left us." 

" You don't eat your breakfast, though," said the at- 
torney, with a charming smile of reproach. 

" Ah, thank you- I'm a bad breakfaster ; that is," said 
Stanley, recollecting that he had made some very credit- 
able meals at the same table, " when I smoke so late as I 
did last night." > 

" You drove Mr. Wylder to Dollington? " 

" Yes ; he's gone to town, he says — yes, the mail train 

— to get some diamonds for Miss Brandon — a present 

— that ought to have come the day before yesterday. He 
says they'll never have them in time unless he goes and 
blows them up. Are you in his secrets at all ? " 

" Something in his confidence, I should hope," said Mr. 
Larkin, in rather a lofty and reserved way. 

" Oh, yes, of course, in serious matters.; but I meant 
other things. You know he has been a little bit wild ; and 
ladies, you know, ladies will be troublesome sometimes ; and 



108 WYLDER'S HA^TD. 

to say truth, I don't think the diamonds have much to say 
to it." 

The gracious attorney glanced at his guest with a 
thoroughly business-like and searcliing eye. 

" You don't think there's any really serious annoyance 
— you don't know the party ? " said he. 

"/.? — oh, dear, no. Wylder has always been very 
reserved with me. He told me nothing. If he had, of 
course I should not have mentioned it. I only conjecture, 
for he really did seem to have a great deal more on 
his mind ; and he kept me walking back and forward, near 
the mill-road, a precious long time. And I really think 
once or twice he was going to tell me." 

" Oh ! you think then, Mr. Lake, there may be some 
serious — a — a — well, I should hope not — I do most 
earnestly trust not." This was said with upturned eyes 
and much unction. " But do you happen, Captain Lake, 
to know of any of those unfortunate, those miserable con- 
nections which young gentlemen of fashion — eh? It's 
very sad. Still it often needs professional advice to solve 
such difficulties — it is very sad — oh ! is not it sad ? " 

" Pray, don't let it affect your spirits," said Lake, who 
was leaning back in his chair, and looking on the carpet, 
about a yard before his lacquered boots, in his usual sly 
way. " I may be quite mistaken, you know, but I wished 
you to understand — having some little experience of the 
world, I'd be only too happy to be of any use, if you 
thought my diplomancy could help poor Wylder out of his 
trouble — that is, if there really is any. But you don't 
know? " 

" No^'' said Mr. Larkin, thoughtfully, with a sharp 
glance now and then at the unreadable visage of the cav- 
alry officer. It was evident his mind was working, and 
nothing was heard in the room for a minute but the tap- 
ping of his nails on the chair, like a death-watch. 



WYLDER'S HAJVn. 109 

" No," said Mr. Larkin again, " I'm not suspicious 
— naturally too much the reverse, I fear ; but it certainly 
does look odd. Did he tell the family at Brandon ? ' ' 

" Certainly not, that I heard. He may have mention- 
ed it. But I started with him, and we walked together, 
under the impression that he was going, as usual, to the 
inn, the — what d'ye call it ? — " Brandon Arms ; " and 
it was a sudden thought — now I think of it — for he took 
no luggage, though to be sure I dare say he has got clothes 
and things in town." 

" And when does he return ? " 

" In a day or two at furthest," he said. 

" I wonder what they'll think of it at Brandon? " said 
the attorney, with a cavernous grin of sly enquiry at his 
companion, which, recollecting his character, he softened 
into a sad sort of smile, and added, " No harm, I dare say ; 
and, after all, you know, why should there — any man 
may have business ; and, indeed, it is very likely, after all, 
that he really went about the jewels. 

" By-the-by," said Lake^ rather briskly for him, rum- 
maging his pockets, " I'm glad I remembered he gave me 
a little note to Chelford. Are any of your people going 
to Brandon this morning ? " 

" I'll send it," said the lawyer, eyeing the little pen- 
cilled note wistfully, which Lake presented between two 
fingers. 

" Don't you think it had best go at once ? — there may 
be something requiring an answer, and your post leaves, 
doesn't it, at twelve ? " 

" Oh ! an answer, is there ? " said Mr. Larkin, draw- 
ing it from his pocket, and looking at it again with a per- 
ceptible curiosity. 

" I really can't say, not having read it, but there may," 
said Captain Lake, who was now and then a little imperii- 



no rVVLDER'S HAJVJ). 

nent, just to keep Mr. Larkin in his place, and perhaps to 
hint that he understood him. 

When at the later breakfast, up at Brandon, that ir- 
regular pencilled scroll reached Lord Chelford's hand, he 
said, as he glanced on the direction — 

" This, is Mark Wylder's ; what does he say ? " 

" So Mark's gone to town," he said ; " but he'll be 
back again on Saturday, and in the meantime desires me 
to lay his heart at your feet, Dorcas. Will you read the 
note ? " 

" No," said Dorcas, quietly. 

Lady Chelford extended her long, shrivelled fingers, on 
which glimmered sundry jewels, and made a little nod to 
her son, who gave it to her, with a smile. Holding her 
glasses to her eyes, the note at a distance, and her head 
rather back, she said — 

" It is not a pretty billet," and she read in a slow and 
grim way : — 

" Dear Chelford, — I'm called up to London just for 
a day. No lark, but honest business. I'll return on Sat- 
urday ; and tell Dorcas, with dozens of loves, I would 
write to her, but have not a minute for the train. 

"Yours, &c. 

"M. Wyldee." 

"No; it is not pretty," repeated the old lady; and, 
indeed, in no sense was it. Before luncheon Captain Lake 
arrived. 

" So Wylder has run up to town," I said, so soon as 
we had shaken hands in the hall. 

" Yes ; /drove him to Dollington last night; we just 
caught the up train." 

" He says he'll be back again on Saturday," I said. 



WVLDER'S HAJVD. 



Ill 



" Saturday, is it ? Ho seemed to think — yes — it 
would be only a day or so. Some jewels, I think, for 
Dorcas. He did not say distinctly; I only conjecture. 
Lady Chelford and Miss Brandon, I suppose, in the 
drawing-room ? " 

So to the drawing-room he passed. 

"How is Rachel? how is your sister, Captain Lake, 
have you seen her to-day ? " asked old Lady Chelford, 
rather benignantly. She chose to be gracious to the 
Lakes. 

" Only for a moment, thank you. She has one of her 
miserable headaches, poor thing ; but she'll be better, she 
says, in the afternoon, and hopes to come up here to see 
you and Miss Brandon, this evening." 

Lord Chelford and I had a pleasant walk that day to 
the ruins of Willerton Castle. After this he wished to 
make a visit to the Vicar, and so we parted company. I 
got into Brandon Park by the pretty gate near Latham. 

It was a walk of nearly three miles across the park from 
this point to the Hall, and the slopes and hollows of this 
noble, undulating plain, came out grandly in the long 
shadows and slanting beams of evening. That yellow, 
level light has, in my mind, something undefinably glorious 
and melancholy, such as to make almost any scenery inter- 
esting, and my solitary walk was delightful. 

After many devious wanderings, I found, under shelter 
of a wonderful little hollow, in which lay, dim and still, 
a tarn, reflecting the stems of the trees that rose from its 
edge, in a way so clear and beautiful, that, with a smile 
and a sigh, I sat myself down upon a rock among the ferns, 
and fell into a reverie. 

-The image of Dorcas rose before me. There is a 
strange mystery and power in the apathetic, and in that 
unaffected carelessness, even defiance of opinion and criti- 



112 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

cism, which I had seen here for the first time, so 'beauti- 
fully embodied. I was quite sure she both thought and 
felt, and could talk, too, if she chose it. What tremendous 
self-rreliance and disdain must form the basis of a female 
character, which accepted misapprehension and depreciation 
with an indifference so genuine as to scorn even the trifling 
exertion of disclosing its powers. 

She could not possibly care for Wylder, any more than 
he cared for her. That odd look I detected in the mirror 
— what did it mean ? and Wylder's confusion about Cap- 
tain Lake — what was that ; I could not comprehend the 
situation that was forming. I went over Wylder's history 
in my mind, and Captain Lake's — all I could recollect 
of it — but could find no clue, and that horrible visitation 
or vision ! what was it ? 

This latter image had-just glided in and taken its place 
in my waking dream, when I thought I saw reflected in the 
pool at my feet, the shape and face which I never could 
forget, of the white, long-chinned old man. 

For a second I was unable, I think, to lift my eyes 
from the water which presented this cadaverous image. 
But the figure began to move, and I raised my eyes, 
and saw it retreat, with a limping gait, into the thick 
copse before me, in the shadow of which, it stopped and 
turned stiffly round, and directed on me a look of horror, 
and then withdrew. 

It is all very fine laughing at me and my fancies. I do 
not think there are many men who in my situation would 
have felt very difierently. I recovered myself; I shouted 
lustily after him to stay, and then in a sort of half 
frightened rage, I pursued him ; but I had to get round 
the pool, a considerable circuit. I could not tell which 
way he had turned on getting into the thicket ; and it was 
now dusk, the sun having gone down during my reverie. 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 113 

So I stopped a little way in the copsewood, which was 
growing quite dark, and I shouted there again, peeping 
under the branches, and felt queer and much relieved that 
nothing answered or appeared. '• 

Looking round me, in a sort of dream, I remembered 
suddenly what Wylder had told me of old Lome Brandon^ 
to whose portrait this inexplicable phantom bore so power- 
ful a resemblance. He was suspected of having murdered 
his own son, at the edge of a tarn in the park. This tarn 
maybe — and with the thought a deeper and colder shadow 
gathered over the ominous hollow in which I stood, and the 
rustling in the withered leaves sounded angrily. 

I got up as quickly as might be to the higher grounds, 
and waited there for a while, and watched for the emergence 
of the old man. But it did not appear ; and shade after 
shade was spreading solemnly over the landscape, and hav- 
ing a good way to walk, I began to stride briskly along the 
slopes and hollows, in the twilight, now and then looking 
into vacancy, over my shoulder. 

The little adventure, and the deepening shades, helped 
to sadden my homeward walk ; and when at last the dusky 
outline of the Hall rose before me, it wore a sort of weird 
and haunted aspect. 



CHAPTER XX. 

CAPTAIN LAKE TAKES AN EVENING STKOLL ABOUT 
GTLINGDEN. 

TnE absence of an accustomed face, even though the 
ownei" be nothing very remarkable, is always felt ; and 



114 WYLDER'S HAJVV. 

Wylder was missed, "though, sooth to say, not very much 
regretted. For the first time we were really a small par- 
ty. Miss Lake was not there. The gallant Captain, her 
brother, was also absent. The Vicar, and his good little 
wife, were at Naunton that evening to hear a missionary 
recount his adventures and experiences in Japan, and none 
of the neighbors had been called in to fill the empty chairs. 

Dorcas Brandon did not contribute much to the talk ; 
neither, in truth, did I. Old Lady Chelford occasionally 
dozed and nodded sternly after tea, waking up and eyeing 
people grimly, as though enquiring whet'her anyone pre- 
sumed to suspect her ladyship of having had a nap. 

Chelford, I recollect, took a book, and read to us now and 
then, a snatch of poetry — I forget what. My book — 
except when I was thinking of the tarn and that old man I 
so hated — was Miss Brandon's exquisite and mysterious 
face. 

That young lady was leaning back in her great oak chair, 
in which she looked like the heroine of some sad and gor- 
geous romance of the old civil wars of England, and direct- 
ing a gaze of contemplative and haughty curiosity upon 
the old lady, who was unconscious of the daring profa- 
nation. 

All on a sudden Dorcas Brandon said — 

" And pray what do you think of marriage, Lady Chel- 
ford?" 

" What do I think of marriage ? " repeated the dowager, 
throwing back her head and eyeing the beautifiil heiress 
through her gold spectacles, with a stony surprise, for she 
was not accustomed to bo catechised by young people. 
"Marriage? — why 'tis a divine institution. What can 
the child mean ? " 

" Do you think, Lady Chelford, it may be safely con- 
tracted, solely to join two estates ? " pursued the young 
lady. 



WVLDER'S HAMD. 115 

" Do I think it may safely be contracted, solely to join 
two estates ? " Tepeated the old lady, with a look and car- 
riage that plainly showed how entirely she appreciated 
the amazing presumption of her interrogatrix. 
^ There was a little pause. 

" Cer^atw^y," replied Lady Chelford; "that is, of 
course, under proper conditions, and with a due sense of 
its sacred character and a — a — obligations." 

" The first of which is foi^e," continued Miss Brandon ; 
" the second honor — both involuntary ; and the third 
obedience^ which springs from them." 

Old Lady Chelford coughed, and then rallying, said — 

" Very good, miss ! " 

■" And pray, Lady Chelford, what do you think of Mr. 
Mark Wylder? " pursued Miss Dorcas. 

" I don't see. Miss Brandon, that my thoughts upon 
that subject can concern any one but myself," retorted 
the old lady, severely, and from an awful altitude. " And 
I may say, considering who I am — and ray years — and 
the manner in which I am usually treated, I am a little sur- 
prised at the tone in which you are pleased to question me." 

These last terrible remarks totally failed to overawe 
the serene temerity of the grave beauty. 

" I assumed, Lady Chelford, as you had interested 
yourself in me so far as to originate the idea of my engage- 
ment to Mr. Wylder,~ that you had considered these to me 
very important questions a little, and could give me satis- 
factory answers upon points on which my mind has been 
employed for some days ; and, indeed, I think I've a 
right to ask that assistance of you." 

" You seem to forget, young lady, that there are times 
and places for such discussions; and that to Mr. — a — a^- 
your visitor (a glance at me,) it can't be very interesting 
to listen to this kind of — of —conversation, which is 
neither very entertaining, nor very wise." 



116 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" I am answerable only for my part of it ; and I think 
my questions very much to the purpose," said the young 
lady, in her low, silvery tones. 

" I, don't question -your good opinion, Miss Brandon, of 
your own discretion ; but / can't see any profit in now 
discussing an engagement of more than two months' stand- 
ing, or a marriage, which is fixed to take place only ten 
days hence. And I think, sir (glancing again at me,) it 
must strike you a little oddly, that I should be invited, in 
your presence,.-to discuss family matters with Miss Dor- 
cas Brandon ? " 

I paused long enough to allow Miss Brandon to speak, 
but she did not choose to do so, thinking, I suppose, it 
was my business. 

" I believe I ought to have withdrawn a little," I said, 
very humbly ; and old Lady Chelford at the word shot a 
gleam oL contemptuous triumph at Miss Dorcas ; but I 
would not acquiesce in the dowager's abusing my conces- 
sion, to the prejudice of that beau±i|ul and daring young 
lady — " I mean. Lady Cljelfovd, in' deference to you, who 
are not aware, as Miss Brandon is, that I am one of Mr. 
Wylder's oldest and most intimate friends ; and at his re- 
quest, and with Lord Chelford's approval, have been ad- 
vised with, in detail, upon all the arrangements connected 
with the approaching marriage." 

" I am not going, at present, to say any more upon 
these subjects, because Lady Chelford prefers deferring 
our conversation," said this very odd young lady; "but 
there is nothing which either she or I may say, which I 
wish to conceal from any friend of Mr. Wylder's." 

The idea of Miss Brandon's seriously thinking of with- 
drawing from her engagement with Mark Wylder, I con- 
fess never entered my mind. Lady Chelford, perhaps, 
knew more of the capricious and daring character of the 



IVYLDER'S HAjYD. 117 

Jadies of the Brandon line than I, and may have discover- 
ed some signs of a coming storm in the oracular questions 
which had fallen so harmoniously from those beautiful lips. 
As for me, I was puzzled. 

Lake's late smoking with Wylder must have disagreed 
with'him very much indeed, for he seemed more out of 
sorts as night approached. He stole awaj^ from Mr. Lar- 
kin's trellised porch, in the dusk. He marched into the 
town rather quickly, like a man who has business on his 
hands ; but he had none — for he walked by the " Bran- 
don Arms," and halted, and stared at the post-office, as- 
if he fancied he had something to say there. But no — 
there was no need to tap at the window-pane. Some idle 
boys were observing the dandy Captain, and he turned 
down the short lane that opened on the common, and 
sauntered upon the short grass. 

Two or three groups, and an invalid visitor or two — 
for Gylingden boasts a " spa" — were lounging away the 
twilight half-hours there. He seated himself on one of 
the rustic seats, and his yellow eyes wandered restlessly 
and vaguely along the outline of the beautiful hills. Then 
for nearly ten minutes he smoked — an odd recreation 
for a man suffering from the cigars of last night -^ and 
after that, for nearly as long againj he seemed lost in deep 
thought, his eyes upon the misty grass before him, and 
his small French boot beating time to the music of his 
thoughts. 

Several groups passed close by him, in their pleasant 
circuit. Some wondered what might be the disease of 
that pale, peevish-looking gentleman, who sat there so 
still, languid, and dejected. Others set him down as a 
gentleman in difficulties of some sort, who was using Gyl- 
ingden for a temporary refuge. 

When Lake, with a little shudder, for it was growing 



118 WYLDER'S HAJVI). 

chill, lifted up his jellow eyes suddenly, and recollected 
where he was, the common had grown dark, and was quite 
deserted. There were lights in the windows of the 
reading-room, and in the billiard-room beneath it; and 
shadowy figures, with cues in their hands, gliding hither 
and thither, across its uncurtained windows. 

With a shrug, and a stealthy glance round him, Cap- 
tain Lake started up. The instinct of the lonely and 
gloomy man unconsciously drew him towards the light, 
and he approached. 

Captain Lake, waiting, with his hand on the door-handle, 
for the stroke, heard the smack of the balls, and the score 
called by the marker, and entered the hot, glaring room. 
Old Major Jackson, with his glass in his eye, was contend- 
ing in his shirt-sleeves heroically with a Manchester 
bag-man, who was palpably too much for him. The 
double-chinned and florid proprietor of the "Brandon 
Arms," with a brandy-and-water familiarity, offered Cap- 
tain Lake two to one on the game in anything he liked, 
which the Captain declined, and took his seat on the 
bench. 

He was not interested by the struggle of the gallant 
Major, who smiled like a prize-fighter under his punish- 
ment. In fact, he could not have told the score at any 
point of the game ; and, to judge by his face, was trans- 
lated from the glare of that arena into a dark and splenetic 
world of his own. 

When he wakened up, in the buzz and clack of tongues 
that followed the close of the game. Captain Lake glared 
round for a moment, like a man called up from sleep ; the 
noise rattled and roared in his ears, the talk sounded 
madly, and the faces of the people excited and menaced 
him undefinably, and he felt as if he was on the point 
of starting to his feet and stamping and shouting. 



WYLDER'S HJIjYD. 119 

The facfis, I suppose, he was confoundedly nervous, dys- 
peptic, or whatever else it might be, and the heat and glare 
were too much for him. 

So, out he went into the chill, fresh night-air, and round 
the corner into the quaint main-street of Gylingden, and 
walked down it in the dark, nearly to the last house by 
the corner of the Redman's Dell road, and then back again, 
and so on, trying to tire himself, I think ; and every time 
he walked down the street, with his face toward London, his 
yellow eyes gleamed through the dark air, with the fixed 
gaze of a man looking out for the appearance of a vehicle. 
It, perhaps, indicated an anxiety and a mental look-out 
in that direction, for he really expected no such thing. 

Then he dropped into the "Brandon Arms," and had a 
glass of brandy and water, and a newspaper, in the 
coffee-room ; and then he ordered a " fly," and drove in 
it to Lawyer Larkin's house — " The Lodge," it was called 
— and entered Mr. Larkin's drawing-room very cheer- 
fully. 

" How quiet you are here," said the Captain. " I have 
been awfully dissipated since I saw you." 

" In an innocent way, my dear Captain Lake, you mean, 
of course — in an innocent way." 

" Oh ! no ; billiards, I assure you. Do you play? " 

" Oh ! dear no — not that I see any essential harm in 
the game as a game, for those, I mean, who don't object 
to that sort of thing ; but for a resident here, -putting 
aside other feelings — a resident holding a position — it 
'"would not do, I assure you. There are people there 
whom one could not associate with comfortably. I don't 
care, I hope, how poor a man may be, but do let him be a 
gentleman. A man, my dear Captain Lake, whose fa- 
ther before him has been a gentleman (old Larkin, while 
in the flesh, was an organist, and kept a small day school 



120 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

at Dwiddleston,) and -who has had the education of one. 
does not feel himself at home, you know — I'm sure you 
have felt the same sort of thing yourself." , 

" Oh ! of course ; and I had such a nice walk on tne 
common first, and' then a turn up and down before the 
" Brandon Arms," where at last I read a paper, and could 
not resist a glass of brandy and water, and, growing lazy, 
came home in a " fly," so I think I have had a very gay 
evening." 

Larkin smiled benignantly, and would have said some- 
thing no doubt worth hearing, but at that moment the 
door opened, and his old cook and elderly parlor-maid, 
and Sleddon the groom, walked in, with those sad faces 
which, I suppose, were first learned in the belief that they 
were acceptable to their mastet. 

" Oh ! " said Mr. Larkin, in a low, reverential tone, 
and the smile vanished ; " prayers ! " 

" Well, then, if you permit me, being a little tired, 
I'll go to my bedroom." 

And he lighted a bedroom candle and left the room. 

" What a beast that fellow is. I don't know why the 
d — I stay in his house." 

One reason was, perhaps, that it saved him nearly a 
guinea a day, and he may have had some other little rea- 
sons just then. 

•' Family prayers, indeed ! and such a pair of women 
— witches, by Jove ! — and that rascally groom, and a 
hypocritical attorney ! And the vulgar brute will be as 
rich as Croesus, I dare say." 



CHAPTER XXI. 

IN WHICH CAPTAIN LAKE VISITS HIS SISTEH'S SICK-BED. 

Captain Lake wanted rest — sleep — quiet thoughts 
at all events. When he was alone 4ie was at once in a 
state of fever and gloom, and seemed always watching for 
something. His strange eyes -glanced now this way, now 
that with a fierce restlessness — 7 now to the window — now 
to the door — and you would have said he was listening 
intently to some indistinct and too distant conversation af- 
fecting him vitally, there was such a look of fear and con- 
jecture always in his face. 

He bolted his door and unlocked his dressing case; and 
from a little silver box in that glittering repository he 
took, one after the other, two or three little wafers of a 
dark hue, and placed them successively on his tongue, and 
suffered them to melt, and so swallowed them. They were 
not liquorice. I am afraid Captain Lake dabbled a little 
in opium. He was not a great adept — yet, at least — 
like those gentlemen who can swallow five hundred drops 
of laudanum at a sitting. But he knew the virtues of the 
drug, and cultivated its acquaintance, and was oftener un- 
der its influence than perhaps any -mortal, except himself, 
suspected. 

Stanley Lake would have given more than he could well 
afford that it were that day week, and he no worse off. 
Why did time limp so tediously away with him, prolong- 
ing his anguish gratuitously ? He felt truculently, and 
6 



122 WYLDER'S HAJVJ). 

would have murdered that week, if he could, in the midst 
of its loitering sunshine and gaiety. 

There was a strange pain at his heart, and the pain of 
intense and fruitless calculation in his brain ; and, as the 
Mahometan prays towards Mecca, and the Jew towards 
Jerusalem, so Captain Lake's morning orisons, whatsoever 
they were, were offered at the window of his bed-room 
toward London, from whence he looked for his salvation, 
or it might be the other thing — with a dreadful yearn- 
ing- 

When Lake had ended his toilet and stared in the glass. 

he still looked so haggard, that on greeting Mr. Larkin 
in the parlor, he thought it necessary to mention that 
he had taken cold in that confounded billiard-room last 
night, which spoiled his sleep, and made him awfully seedy 
that morning. Of course, his host was properly afflicted 
and sympathetic. 

" By-the-bye, I had a letter this morning from that 
party — our common friend, Mr. W., you know," said Lar- 
kin, gracefully. 

" Well, what is he doing, and when does he come back? 
You mean Wylder, of course ? " 

" Yes ; my good client, Mr. Mark Wylder. Permit me 
to assist you to some honey, you'll find it remarkably good, 
I venture to say ; it .comes from the gardens of Queen's 
Audley." 

" Thank you — delicious, I'm sure. May I see Wyl- 
der's note — that is, if there's no private business ? " 

" Oil, certainly." 

And, with Wylder's great red seal on the back of the 
envelope, the letter ran thus : — 

" Dear Larkin, — I write in haste to save post, to say 
I shall be detained in town a few days longer than I thought. 



WYLDER'S HAJSTD. 123 

Don't wait for me about the parchments ; I am satisfied. 
If anything crosses your mind, a word with Mr. De C. at 
the Hall, will clear all up. Have all ready to sign and 
seal when I come back — certainly, within a week. 
" Yours sincerely, 

♦ "M. Wyldbe, 

' London." 

It was evidently written in great haste, with the broad- 
nibbed pen he liked ; but notwithstanding the sort of swag- 
ger with which the writing marched across the page, Lake 
might have seen here and there a little quaver — indicative 
of something different from haste — the vibrations of an- 
other sort of flurry. 

" ' JCertainly within a week,' he writes. Does he mean 
he'll be here in a week or only to have the papers ready 
in a week ? " asked Lake. 

" The question, certainly, does arise. It struck me on 
the first perusal," answered the attorney. " His address 
is rather a wide one, too — London! Do you know his 
club. Captain Lake ? " 

" ' The Wanderers.'' He has Jeft the ' United Service.^ 
Nothing for me, by the way? " 

" No letter. No!" 

" Tant mievx, I hate them," said the Captain. " I 
wonder how my sister is this morning." 

" Would you like a messenger ? I'll send down with 
pleasure to enquire." 
■ " Thank you, no; I'll walk down and see her." 

And Lake yawned at the window, and then took his hat 
and stick and sauntered toward Gylingdten. At.the post- 
oflBce window he tapped with the silver tip of his cane, and 
told Miss Driver with a sleepy smile — 

" I'm going down to Redman's Farm, and any letters for 
my sister, Miss Lake, I may as well take with me. " 



124 WYLDER'S HAJ^D. 

There was only one letter — the address was written — 
" Miss Lake, Redman's Farm, near Brandon Park, Gyling- 
den," in a stiff hand, rather slanting backwards. 

Captain Lake put it in his paletot pocket, looked in her 
face gently, and smiled, and thanked her in his graceful 
•yyay — and, in fact, left an enduring impression upon that 
impressible nature. 

Turning up the dark road at Redman's Dell, the gallant 
Captain passed the old mill, and, all being quiet up and 
down the road, he halted under the lordly shadow of a 
clump of chestnuts, and opened and read the letter he had 
just taken charge of. It contained only these words : — 

" Wednesday 
" On Friday night, next, at half-past twelve." 

This he read twice or thrice, pausing between whiles. 
The envelope bore the London postmark. Then he took 
out his cigar case, selected a promising weed, and wrapping 
the laconic note prettily round one of his scented matches, 
lighted it, and the note flamed pale in the daylight, and 
dropped, still blazing, at the root of the old tree he stood 
by. Having completed his mysterious incremation, he, 
with his yellow eyes, made a stolen glance around, and 
lighting his cigar, glided gracefully up the steep road, un- 
der the solemn canopy of old timber, .toward Redman's 
Farm. 

As he entered the flower-garden, the jaundiced face of 
old Tamar, with its thousand small wrinkles and its omi- 
nous gleam of suspicion, was looking out from the darken- 
ed porch. The white cap, kerchief, and drapery, courte- 
sied to him as he drew near, and the dismal face changed 
not. 

" "Well, Tamar, how do you do ? — how are all ? Where 
is that girl, Margery ? " 



WYLDER'S HAJVJ). 125 

" In the kitchen, Master Stanley, " said she courtesying 
again. 

"Well, come up stairs to your mistress' room," said 
Tioke, mounting the stairs, with his hat in his hand, and 
on tip-toe, like a man approaching a sick chamber. 

There was something I think grim and spectral in this 
ceremonious ascent to the empty chamber. Children had 
once occupied that silent floor, for there was a little bal- 
ustraded gate across the top of the staircase. 

" I keep this closed," said old Tamar, " and forbid her 
to cross it, lest she should disturb the mistress. Heaven 
forgive me ! " 

" Very good," he whispered, and he peeped over the 
banister, and then entered Rachel's silent room, darkened 
with closed shutters, the white curtains and white coverlet 
so like " the dark chamber of white death." 

He had intended speaking to Tamar there, but changed 
his mind, or rather could not make up his Inind ; and he 
loitered silently, and stood with the curtain in his gloved 
hand, looking upon the cold coverlet, as if Rachel lay dead 
there. 

" That will do," he said, awaking from his wandering 
thought. " We'll go down now, Tamar." 

And in the same stealthy way, walking lightly and slow- 
ly, down the stairs they went, and Stanley entered the 
kitchen. 

" How do you do, Margery? You'll be glad to hear 
your mistress is better. You must run down to the town, 
though, and buy some jelly, and you are to bring her back 
change of this." 

And he placed half-a-crown in her hand. 

" Put on your bonnet and my old shawl, child ; and 
take the basket,~and come. back by the side door," croak- 
ed old Tamar. 



126 . WVLDER'S HAJVJ). 

So the girl dried her hands — she was washing the tea- 
cups — and in a twinkling was equipped and on her way 
to Gylingden. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

IN WHICH CAPTAIN LAKE MEETS A FRIEND NEAR THE 
WHITE HOUSE. 

Lake had no very high opinion of men or women, gen- 
tle or simple. 

" She listens, I dare say, the little spy," said he. 

" No, Master Stanley ! She's a good little girl." 

" She quite believes her mistress is up stairs — eh ? " 

" Yes ; the Lord forgive me — I'm deceiving her." 

He did not like the tone and look which accompanied 
this. 

" Now, my good old Tamar, you really can't be such 
an idiot as to fancy there can be any imaginable wrong in 
keeping that prying little slut in ignorance of that which 
in no wise concerns her. This is a critical matter, do you 
see, and if it were known in this place that your young 
mistress had gone away as she has done — though quite 
innocently — upon my honor — I think it would blast her. 

You would not like, for a stupid crotchet, to ruin poor 
Radio, I fancy." 

" I'm doing just what you both bid me," said the old 
woman. 

" You sit up stairs chiefly ? " * 

She nodded sadly. 

" And keep the hall door shut and bolted ? " 

Again she nodded. 



WYLDER'8 HAJVD. 127 

" I'm going up to the Hall, and I'll tell them she's 
much better, and that I've been in her room, and that, 
perhaps, she may go up to see them in the morning." 

" How long is all this to go on for. Master Stanley ? " 

"Why, d — you, Tamar, can't you listen?" he said, 
clutching her wrist in his lavender kid grasp rather rough- 
ly. " How long — a very short'time, I tell you. She'll 
be home immediately. I'll come to-morrow and tell 
you exactly — maybe to-morrow evening — will that do ? 
And should they call, you must say the same ; and if Miss 
Dorcas — Miss Brandon, you know — should wish to go 
up to see her, tell her she's asleep. Stop that hypocriti- 
cal grimacing; will you. It is no part of your duty to 
tell the world what can't possibly concern them, and may 
bring your young mistress to — perdition. That does 
not strike me as any part of your religion." 

Tamar groaned again, and she said : "I opened my Bi- 
ble, Lord help me, three times to-day, Master Stanley, 
and could not go on. It's no use — I can't read it." 

" Time enough — I think you've read more than is 
good for you. I think you are half mad, Tamar ; but 
think what you may, it must be done. Have not you 
read of straining at gnats and swallowing camels ? You 
used not, I've heard, to be always so scrupulous, old 
Tamar." 

There was a vile sarcasm in his tone and look. 

" It is not for the child I nursed to say that," said Ta- 
mar. 

There were scandalous stories of wicked old Tiberius — 
bankrupt, dead and buried — compromising the fame of 
Tamar — not always a spectacled and cadaverous student 
of Holy Writ. These, indeed, were even in Stanley's 
childhood, old-world, hazy traditions of the servants' hall. 

But boys hear often more than is good, and more than 



128 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

gospel, who live in such houses as old General Lake, the 
millionaire widower, kept. 

"I did not mean anything, upon my honor, Tamar, 
that .could annoy you. I only meant you used, not to be 
a fool, and pray don't begin now ; for I assure you Radio 
and I would not ask it, if it could be avoided. You have 
Miss Radio's secret in your hands. I don't think you'd 
like to injure her, and you used to be trustworthy. I 
don't think your Bible teaches you anywhere to hurt your 
neighbor and to break faith." 

" Don't speak of the Bible now ; but you needn't fear 
me. Master Stanley," answered the old woman, a little 
sternly. " I don't know why she's gone, nor why it's a 
secret — I don't, and I'd rather not, and I'll do as you 
bid me, and I have done, Master Stanley, howsoever it 
troubles my mind ; and now old Tamar's word's spoke — 
that's all," 

" Old Tamar is a sensible creature, as she always was. 
I hope I did not vex you, Tamar. I did not mean, I 
assure you ; but we get rough ways in the army, I'm 
afraid, and you won't mind me. You never did mind lit- 
tle Stannie when he was naughty, you know." 

There was here a little subsidence in his speech. He 
was thinking of giving her a crown, but there were sever- 
al reasons against it, so that handsome coin remained in his 
purse. 

" And I forgot to tell you, Tamar, I've a ring for you 
in town — a little souvenir; you'll think it pretty — a 
gold ring with a stone in it — it belonged to poor dear 
Aunt Jemima, you remember. I left it behind ; so stu- 
pid ! " 

So he shook hands with old Tamar, and patted her af- 
fectionately on the shoulder, and he said : 

"Keep the hall door bolted. Make any excuse you 



WYLDER'S HjiJVB. 129 

like ; only it would not do for any one to open it, and 
run up to the room as they might, so don't forget to se- 
cure the door when I go. I think that is all. Ta-ta, 
dear Tamar. I'll see you in the morning." 

As he walked down the mill-road toward the town, he 
met Lord. Chelford on his way to make enquiry about Ra- 
chel at Redman's Farm ; and Lake, who, as we know, had 
just seen his sister, gave him all particulars. 

Chelford, like the lawyer, had heard from Mark Wyl- 
der that morning — a few lines, postponing his return. 
He merely mentioned it, and made no comment ; but Lake 
perceived that he was annoyed at his unexplained absence. 

Lake dined at Brandon that evening, and though look- 
ing ill, was very good company, and promised to bring an 
early report of Rachel's convalescence in the morning. 

I have little to record of next day, except that Larkin 
received another London letter. Wylder plainly wrote 
in great haste, and merely said : — 

" I shall have to wait a day or two longer than I yes- 
terday thought, to meet a fellow from whom I am to re- 
ceive something of importance, rather, as I think, to me. 
Get the deeds ready, as I said in my last. If I am not 
in Gylingden by Monday, we must put oflF the wedding for 
a week later — there is no help for it. You need not talk 
of this. I write to Chelford to say the same." 

This note was unceremonious, and still shorter. Lord 
Chelford would have written at once to remonstrate with 
Mark on the unseemliness of putting ofiF his marriage so 
capriciously, or, at all events, so mysteriously — Miss 
Brandon not being considered, nor her friends consulted. 
But Mark had no fancy to be worried, when he had made 
up his mind, by prosy remonstrances ; he shut out the 
whole tribe of letter-writers by simply omitting to give 
them his address. 
9 



130 WYLBER'S HAJVn. 

Like most rustic communities, Gylingden and its neigh- 
borhood were early in bed. Few lights burned after 
half-past ten, and the whole vicinity was deep in its slum- 
bers before twelve o'clock. 

At that dread hour. Captain Lake, about a mile on the 
Dollington, which was the old London road from Gyling- 
den, was pacing backward and forward under the tower- 
ing files of beech that overarch it at that point. 

Stanley Lake did not like waiting any more than did 
Louis XIV. He was really a little tired of acting sen- 
try, and was very peevish by the time the ring of wheels 
and horse-hoofs approaching from the London direction 
became audible. Even so, he had a longer wait than he 
expected, sounds are heard so far by night. At last, 
however, it drew nearer — nearer — quite close — and a 
sort of nondescript vehicle — one horsed — loomed in the 
dark, and he calls — 

" Hallo ! there — I say — a passenger . for the ' White 
House ? ' 

At the same moment, a window of the cab — shall we 
call it — was let down, and a female voice — Rachel 
Lake's — called to the driver to stop. 

Lake addressed the driver — 

"You come from Johnson's Hotel — don't jou — at 
Dollington?" 

" Yes, sir." 

" Well, I'll pay you half-fare to bring me there." 

"All right, sir. But the 'oss, sir, must 'av 'is oats 
fust." 

" Feed him here, then. They are all asleep in the 
'White House.' I'll be with you in five minutes, and 
you shall have something for yourself when we get into 
Dollington." 

Staoley opened the door. . She placed her hand on his, 



WVLDER'S HAJVn. 131 

and stepped to the ground. It was very dark under those 
great trees. He held her hand a little harder than was 
his wont. 

" All quite well, ever since. You are not very tired, 
are you ? I'm afraid it will be necessary for you to walk 
to 'Redman's Farm,' dear Radie — hut it is hardly a 
mile, I think — for, you see, the fellow must not know 
who you are ; and I must go back with him, for I have 
not been very well — indeed I've been, I may say, very 
ill — and I told that fellow, Larkin, who has his eyes 
about him, and would wonder what kept me out so late, 
that I would run down to some of the places near for a 
change, and sleep a night there ; and that's the reason, 
dear Radie, I can walk only a short way with you ; but 
you are not afraid to walk a part of the way home with- 
out me ? You are so sensible, and you have been, really, 
so very kind, I assure you I appreciate it, Radie — I do, 
indeed ; and I'm very grateful — I am, upon my word." 

Rachel answered with a heavy sigh. . 



CAAPTER XXIII. 

now RACHBIi SLEPT THAT NIGHT IN KEDMAN'S FARM. 

" Allow me — pray do," and he took her little bag 
from her hand. I hope you are not very tired, darling ; 
you've been so very good ; and your not afraid — you 
know the place is so quiet — of the little walk by your- 
self. Take my arm ; I'll go as far as I can, but it is 
very late you know — and you are sure you are not 
afraid?" 



132 WYLDER'S HAND. 

" I ought to be afraid of nothing now, Stanley, but I 
think I am afraid of everything."' 

"Merely a little nervous — it's nothing — I've been 
■ffretchedly since, myself; but, I'm so glad you are home 
again ; you shall have no more trouble, I assure you ; 
and not a creature suspects you have been from home. 
Old Tamar has behaved admirably." 

Rachel sighed again, and said — 

" Yes — poor Tamar." 

" And now, dear, I'm afraid I must leave you — I'm 
very sorry ; but you see how it is ; keep to the shady 
side, close by the hedge, where the trees stop ; but I'm 
certain you will meet no one. Tamar will tell you who 
has called — hardly anyone — I saw them myself every 
day at Brandon, and told them you were ill. You've 
been very kind, Radie ; I assure you I'll never forgot it. 
You'll find Tamar up and watching for you — I arranged 
all that ; and I need not say you'll be very careful not to 
let that little girl of yours hear anything. Good-night, 
Radie ; God bless you, dear. I wish very much I could 
see you all the way, but there's a risk in it, you know. 
Good-night, dear Radie. By-the-bye, here's your bag ; 
I'll take the rug, it's too heavy for you, and I may as 
well have it toDollington." 

He kissed her cheek in his slight way, and left her, 
and was soon on his way to Dollington, where he slept 
that night — rather more comfortably than he had done 
since Rachel's departure. 

Rachel walked on swiftly. Very tired, hut not at all 
sleepy — on the contrary, excited and nervous, and rather 
relieved, notwithstanding that Stanley had left her to 
■walk home alone. 

It seemed to her that more than a month had passed 
since she saw the mill road last. How much had hap- 



WYLDER'S HAND. 133 

pened ! how awful was the change ! Familiar objects gli- 
ded past her, the same, yet the fashion of the countenance 
was altered ; there was something estranged and threaten- 
ing. 

The pretty parsonage was now close by : in the dews of 
night the spirit of peace and slumber smiled over it ; but 
the sight of its steep roof and homely chimney-stacks 
smote with a shock at her brain and heart — a troubled 
moan escaped her. She looked up with the instinct of 
prayer, and clasped her hands on the handle of that little 
bag which had made the mysterious journey with her ; a 
load which no man could lift lay upon her heart. 

Then she commenced her dark walk up the mill road 
— her hands still clasped, her lips moving in broken ap- 
peals to Heaven. She looked neither to the right nor to 
the left, but passed on with inflexible gaze and hasty steps, 
like one who crosses a plank over some awful chasm. 

Old Tamar, with her shawl over her head, sat listening 
for her young mistress's approach, on the little side-bench 
in the trelliscd porch, and tottered hastily forth to meet 
her at the garden wicket, whispering forlorn welcomes 
and thanksgivings, which Rachel answered only with a 
kiss. 

The hall-door was now shut and bolted. Wise old Ta- 
mar had turned the key upon the sleeping girl. There 
was nothing to be feared from prying eyes and listening 
ears. 

" You are cold. Miss Radio, and tired — poor thing ! I 
lit a bit of fire in your room, miss ; would you like me to 
go up stairs with you, miss ? " 

" Come." 

And so up-stairs they went ; and the young lady looked 
round with a strange anxiety, like a person seeking for 
something, and forgetting what ; and, sitting down, she 



134 WVLDER'S HAJYJ). 

leaned her head on her hand with a moan, the living pic- 
ture of despair. 

" You've a headache, Miss Kadie ? " said the old woman, 
standing by her with that painful enquiry which sat nat- 
urally on her face. 

" A heartache, Tamar." 

" Let me help you ofiF with these things. Miss Eadie, 



The young lady did not seem to hear, but she allowed 
Tamar to remove her cloak and hat and handkerchief. 

The old servant had placed the tea-things on the table, 
and what remained of that wine of which Stanley had 
partaken on the night from which the eclipse of Rachel's 
life dated. So, without troubling her with questions, she 
made tea, and then some negus, with careful and trembling 
hands. 

" No," said Rachel, a little. pettishly, and put it aside. 

"See now, Miss Radio, dear. You look awful sick 
and tired. You are tired to death and pale, and sorry, 
my dear child ; and to please old Tamar, you'll just drink 
this." 

" Thank you, Tamar, I believe you are right." 

The truth was she needed it ; and in the same dejected 
way she sipped it slowly ; and then there was a long sil- 
ence — the silence of a fatigue, like that of fever, near 
which sleep refuses to come. But she sat in that waking 
lethargy in which are sluggish dreams of horror, and 
neither eyes nor ears for that which is before us. 

When at last, with another great sigh, she lifted her 
head, her eyes rested on old Tamar's face, at the other 
side of the fire-place, with a dark, dull surprise and puz- 
zle for a moment, as if she could not tell why she was 
there, or where the place was ; arid then rising up, with 
piteous look in her old nurse's face, she said, " Oh ! Ta- 
mar, Tamar. It is a dreadful world." 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 



135 



" So it is, Miss Radie," answered the old woman, her 
glittering eyes returning her sad gaze wofully. " Aye, so 
it is, sure ! — and such it was and will be. For so the 
Scripture says — " Cursed is the ground for thy sake" 
— hard to the body — a vale of tears — dark to the spir- 
it. But it is the hand of God that is upon you, and, like 
me, you will say at last, ' it is good for me that I have 
been in trouble.' Lie down, dear Miss Radie, and I'll read 
to you the blessed words of comfort that have been seajed 
for me ever since I saw you last. They have — but that's 
over." 

And she turned up her pallid, puckered face, and, with 
a trembling and knotted pair of hands uplifted, she mut- 
tered an awful thanksgiving. 

Rachel said nothing, but her eyes rested on the floor, 
and, with the quiet obedience of her early childhood, she 
did as Tamar said. And the old woman assisted her to 
undress, and so-she lay down with a sigh in her bed. And 
Tamar, her round spectacles by this time on her nose, sit- 
ting at the little table by her pillow, read, in a solemn and 
somewhat quavering voice, such comfortable passages as 
came first to memory. 

Rachel cried quietly as she listened, and at last, worn 
out by many feverish nights, and the fatigues of her jour- 
ney, she fell into a disturbed slumber, with many startings 
and sudden wakings, with cries and strange excitement. 

Old Tamar would not leave her, but kept her seat in 
the high-backed arm-chair throughout the night, like a 
nurse — as indeed she was — in a sick chamber. And so 
that weary night limped tediously away, and morning 
dawned, and tipped the discolored foliage of the glen with 
its glow, awaking the songs of all the birds, and dispers- 
ing the white mists of darkness. And Rachel, with a 
start awoke, and sat up with a wild look, and a cry — 



136 WVLSER'S HAJVJ}. 

" What is it ? " 

" Nothing, dear Miss Radie — only poor old Tamar." 
And a new day had begun. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

DOECAS BRANDON PAYS RACHEL A VISIT. 

It was not much past eleven that morning when the 
pony carriage from Brandon drew up before the little gar- 
den wicket of Redman's farm. The servant held the po- 
nies' heads, and Miss Dorcas passed through the little 
garden, and met old Tamar in the porch. 

" Better to-day, Tamar ? " enquired this grand and 
beautiful young lady. 

The sun glimmered through the boughs behind her ; 
her face was in shade, and its delicate chiselling was 
brought out in soft reflected lights ; and old Tamar looked 
on her in a sort of wonder, her beauty seemed so celestial 
and splendid. 

" Well, she was better, though she had had a bad 
night. She was up and dressed, and this moment coming 
down, and would be very happy to see Miss Brandon, if 
she would step into the drawing-room. 

Miss BrandoTa took old Tamar's hand gently and press- 
ed it. I suppose she was glad and took this way of show- 
ing it ; and tall, beautiful, graceful, in rustling silks, she 
glided into the tiny drawing-room silently, and sat down 
softly by the window, looking out upon the flowers and 
the falling leaves, mottled in light and shadow. 

There came a step and a little rustling of feminine dra- 
peries, the small door opened, and Rachel entered, with 
her hand extended, and a pale smile of welcome. 



WTLDER'S HAJ\rD. 137 

Women can hide their pain better than we men, and 
bear it better, too, except when shame drops fire into the 
dreadful chalice. But poor Rachel Lake had more than 
that stoical hypocrisy which enables the tortured spirits 
of her sex to lift a pale face through the flames and 
smile. 

She was sanguine, she was genial and companionable, 
and her spirits rose at the sight of a friendly face. This 
transient spring and lighting up are beautiful — a glamour 
beguiling our senses. 

" Rachel, dear, I'm so glad to see you," said Dorcas, 
placing her arms gently about her neck, and kissing her 
twice or thrice. There was something of sweetness and 
fondness in her tones and manner, which was new to 
Rachel, and she returned the greeting as kindly, and felt 
more like her former self. " You have been more ill than 
I thought, darling, and you are still from quite recover- 
ed." 

Rachel's pale and sharpened features and dilated eye 
struck her with a painful surprise. 

" I shall soon be as well as I am ever likely to be — that 
is, quite well," answered Rachel. " You have been very 
kind. I've heard of your coming here, and sending, so 
often." 

They sat down side by side, and' Dorcas held her 
hand. 

" Maybe, Rachel dear, you would like to drive a 
little?" 

" No, darling, not yet ; it is very good of you." 

" You have been so ill, my poor Rachel." 

" 111 and troubled, dear — troubled in mind, and misera- 
bly nervous." 

Poor Rachel ! her nature recoiled from deceit, and she 
told, at all events as much of the truth as she dared. 



138 WYLDER'S HAND. 

Dorcas' large eyes rested upon her with a grave enquiry, 
and then Miss Brandon looked down in silence for a while 
on the carpet, and was thinking a little sternly, maybe, 
and with a look of pain, still holding Rachel's hand, she 
said, with a sad sort of reproach in her tone, ' 

" Rachel, dear, you have not told my secret ? " 
" No, indeed, Dbrcas — never, and never will ; and I 
think, though I have learned to fear death,, I would rather 
die than let Stanley even suspect it." 

She spoke with a sudden energy, which partook of fear 
and passion, and flushed her thin cheek, and made her 
languid eyes flash. 

" Thank you, Rachel, my cousin Rachel, my only 
friend. I ought not to have doubted you," and she kissed 
her again. " Chelford had a note from Mr. Wylder this 
morning — another note — his coming delayed, and some- 
thing of his having to see some person who is abroad," 
continued Dorcas, after a little pause. "You have heard, 
of course, of Mr. Wylder's absence ? " 

" Yes, something — everything" said Rachel, hurriedly, 
looking frowningly at a flower which she was twirling in 
her fingers. 

" He chose an unlucky moment for his departure. I 
meant to speak to him and end all between us ; and I 
would now write, but there is no address to his letters. I 
think Lady Chelford and her son begin to think there is 
more in this oddly-timed journey of Mr. Wylder's than 
first appeared. When I came into the parlor this morning 
I knew they were speaking of it. If he does not return in 
a day or two, Chelford, I am sure, will speak to me, and 
then I shall tell him my resolution." 
" Yes," said Rachel. 

" I don't understand his absence. I think they are 
puzzled, too. Can you conjecture why he is gone ? " 



WYLDER'8 HJiJVD. I39 ^ 

Rachel made no answer, but rose with a dreamy look, aa 
if gazing at some distant object among the dark masses of 
forest trees, and stood before the window so looking across 
the tiny garden. 

"I don't think, Rachel dear, you heard me?" said 
Dorcas. 

" Can I conjecture why he is gone ? " murmured Rachel, 
still gazing with a wild kind of apathy into distance. 
"Can I? What can it now be to you or me — why? 
There are many things best not conjectured about at all 
— some interesting, some abominable, some that pass all 
comprehension : I never mean to conjecture, if I can 
help it again." 

And the wan oracle having spoken, she sat -down in the 
same sort of abstraction again beside Dorcas, and she 
looked full in her cousin's eyes. 

" I made you a voluntary promise, Dorcas, and now 
you will make me one. Of Mark Wylder I say this : 
his name has been for years hateful to me, and recently 
it has become frightful ; and you will promise me simply 
this, that you will never ask me to speak again about 
him. Be he near, o.r be he far, I regard his very name 
with horror." 

Dorcas returned her gaze with oHe of haughty amaze- 
ment ; and Rachel said, 

"Well, Dorcas, you promise?" 

" You speak truly, Rachel, you have a right to my 
promise : I give it." 

" Dorcas, you are changed; have I lost your love for 
asking so poor a kindness?" 

"I'm only disappointed, Rachel ; I thought you would 
have trusted me, as I do you." , 

" It is an antipathy — an antipathy I cannot get over, 
dear Dorcas ; you may think it a madness, but don't 



140 WYLDER'S HAJVn. 

blame me. Remember I am neither well nor happy, and 
forgive what you cannot like in me. I have very few to 
love me now, and I thought you might love me, as I have 
begun to love you. Oh ! Dorcas, darling, don't forsake 
me ; I am very lonely here, and my spirits are gone, and 
I never needed kindness so much before." 

And she threw her arms round her cousin's neck, and 
brave Rachel at last burst into tears. 

Dorcas, in her strange way, was moved. 

"I like you still, Rachel; I'm sure I'll always like 
you. You resemble me, Rachel : you are fearless and 
inflexible and generous. That spirit belongs to the blood 
of our strange race : all our women were so. Yes, Ra- 
chel, I do love you. I was wounded to find you had 
thoughts you would not trust to me ; but I have made the 
promise, and I'll keep it ; and I love you all the same." 

'' Thank you, Dorcas, dear. I like to call you cous- 
in — kindred is so pleasant. Thank you, from my heart, 
for your love ; you will never know, perhaps, how much 
it is to me." 

The young queen looked on her kindly, but sadly, 
through her large, strange eyes, clouded with a pressage 
of futurity, and she kissed her again, and said — 

" Rachel, dear, I have a plan for you and me : we 
shall be old maids, you and I, and live together like the 
ladies of Llangollen, careless and happy recluses. I'll 
let Brandon and abdicate. We will make a little tour 
together, when all this shall have blown over, in a few 
weeks, and choose our retreat; and with the winter's 
snow we'll vanish from Brandon, and appear with the 
early flowers at our cottage among the lieautiful woods 
and hills of Wales. Will you come, Rachel ? " 

At sight of this castle or cottage in the air, Rachel 
lighted up. The little whim had something tranquilizing 



WYLDER'S HAjXD. 14] 

and balmy. It was escape flight from Gylingden — flight 
from Brandon — flight from Redman's Farm : they 
and all their hated associations would he far behind, 
and that awful page in her story, not torn out, in- 
deed, hut gummed down as it were, and no longer 
glaring and glowering in her eyes every moment of her 
waking life. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

CAPTAIN LAKE LOOKS IN AT NIGHTFALL. 

In the queer little drawing-room of Redman's Farm it 
was twilight, so dense were the shadows from the great old- 
chestnuts that surrounded it, before the sun was well be- 
neath the horizon ; and you could, from its darkened win- 
dow, see its red beams still tinting the high grounds of 
Willerston, visible through the stems of the old trees that 
were massed in the near foreground. 

A figure which had lost its energy — a face stamped ^ 
with the lines and pallor of a dejection almost guilty — • 
with something of the fallen grace and beauty of poor 
Margaret, as we see her with her forehead leaning on her 
slender hand, by the stirless spinning-wheel — the image 
of a strange an4 inefiaceable sorrow, sat Rachel Lake. 

Tamar might glide in and out; her mistress did not 
speak ; the shadows deepened round her, but she did not 
look up, nor call, in the old cheerful accents, for lights. 
No more roulades and ringing chords from the piano — no 
more clear spirited tones of .the lady's voice sounded 
through the low ceilings of Redman's Farm, and thrilled 



142 JVFLDER'S HAJVX). 

with a haunting melody the deserted glen, wherein the 
birds had ended their vesper songs and gone to rest. 

A step was heard at the threshold — it entered the 
hall ; the door of the little chamber opened, and Stanley 
Lake entered, saying in a doubtful, almost timid way — 

" It is I, Radio, come to thank you, and just to ask 
you how you do, and to say I'll never forget your kind- 
ness ; upon my honor, I never can." 

Rachel shuddered as the door opened, and there was a 
ghastly sort of expectation in her look. Imperfectly as 
it was seen, he could understand it. She did not bid him 
welcome or even speak. There was a silence. 

" Now, you're not angry with me, Radie dear; I ven- 
ture to say I suffer more than you : and how could I 
have anticipated the strange turn things have taken ? 
You know how it all came about, and you must see I'm not 
really to blame, at least in intention, for all this mis- 
erable trouble. Come, Radie, let by-gones be by-gones. 
There's a good girl ; won't you ? " 

" Aye, by-gones are by-gones ; the past is, indeed, im- 
mutable, and the future is equally fixed, and more dread- 
ful." 

" Come, Radie ; a clever girl like you can make your 
own future." 

" And what do you want of me now ? "_ she asked, with 
a fierce cold stare. 

"JBut I did not say I wanted anything." 

" Of course you do, or I should not have seen you. 
Mark me though, I'll go no further in the long route of 
wickedness you seem to have marked out for me. I'm 
sacrificed, it is true, but I won't renew my hourly hor- 
rors, and live under the rule of your diabolical selfish- 
ness." 

" I don't know really, Radie, why you should talk as 



WVLDER'S HAJVn. I43 

you do. I don't want you to do anything — upon my 
honor I don't — only just to exercise your common sense 
— and you have lots of sense, Radie. Don't you know 
very well, in a small place like this, they are all alive 
with curiosity? and if you choose to make such a tragedy 
figure, and keep moping and crying, and all that sort of 
thing, and look so funeste and miserable, you'll be sure to 
fix attention and set the whole d — d place speculating and 
gossiping? and really, Radie, you're making mountains 
of mole-hills. It is because you live so solitary here, 
and it is such a gloomy out-o'-the-way spot — so awfully 
dark and damp, nobody could be well here, and you real- 
ly must change. It is the very temple of blue-devilry, 
and I assure you if I lived as you do I'd cut my throat 
before a month — you musn't. And old Tamar, you 
know, such a figure ! She gives me the horrors, I assure 
you, whenever I look at her ; you must not keep her, 
she's of no earthly use, poor old thing ; and, you know, 
Radie, we're not rich enough — you and I — to support 
other people. You must really place yourself more cheer- 
fully, and I'll speak to Ohelford about Tamar. There's 
a very nice place — an asylum, or something, for old 
women — near — (Dollington he was going to say, but 
the associations were not pleasant) — near some of those 
little towns close to this, and he's a visitor, or governor, 
or whatever they call it. It is really not fair to expect 
you or me to keep people like that." 

" She has not cost you much hitherto, Stanley, and she 
will give you very little trouble hereafter. I' won't part 
with Tamar. 

" She has not cost me much ? " said Lake, whose temper 
was not of a kind to pass by anything. " No ; of course, 
she has not. / can't afford a guinea. You're poor 
enough ; but in proportion to my expenses — I'm a 



144 WYLDSR'S BAJVJ). 

a great deal poorer than you ; and I never said I gave her 
sixpence, did I ? I have not got it to give, and I don't 
think she's fool enough to expect it; and, to say the 
truth, I don't care. I only advise you. There are some 
cheerful little cottages near the Green, in Gylingden, and 
I venture to, think, this is one of the very gloomiest 
and most uncomfortable places you could have selected to 
live in." 

Rachel looked drearily toward the window and sighed 
— it was almost a groan. 

" It was cheerful always till this frightful week changed 
everything. Oh ! why, why, why did you ever come ? " 
She threw back her pale face, biting her lip, and even in 
that deepening gloom her small pearly teeth glimmered 
white ; and then she burst into sobs and an agony of 
tears. 

Captain Lake knew something of feminine paroxysms. 
Rachel was not given to hysterics. He knew this burst 
of anguish was unaffected. He was rather glad of it. 
When it was over he expected clearer weather and a calm. 
So he waited, saying now and then a soothing word or 
two. " There — there — there. Radio — there's a good 
girl. Never mind — there — there." 

With Rachel this weakness did not last long. It was a 
gust — violent — soon over; and the " o'er-charged " 
heart and brain were relieved. And she pushed open the 
window, and stood for a moment in the chill air, and 
sighed, and whispered a word or two over the closing 
flowers, of her little garden toward the darkening glen, 
and with another great sigh closed the window, and re- 
turned. 

" Can I do anything. Radio ? You're better now. I 
knew you would be. Shall I get some water from your 
room 7 " 



WYLDEWS HAJVD. ^45 

" No, Stanley ; no, thank you. I'm very well now," 
she said, gently. 

" Yes, I think so. I knew you'd be better." And 
he patted her shoulder with his soft hand ; and then fol- 
lowed a short silence. 

" I wish you were more pleasantly lodged, Radie ; but 
we can speak of that another time." 

" Yes — you're right. This place is dreadful, and its 
darkness dreadful ; but light is still more dreadful n,ow, 
and I think I'll change ; but, as you say, there is time 
enough to think of all that." 

"Quite so — -time enough. By-the-by, Radio, you 
mentioned our old servant, whom my father thought so 
highly of — Jim Dutton — the other evening. I've been 
thinking of him, do you know, and I should like to find 
him out. He was a very honest fellow, and attached, and a 
clever fellow, too, my father thought ; and he was a good 
judge. Hadn't ydu a letter from his mother lately ? 
You told me so, I think ; and if it is not too much trouble, 
dear Radie, would you allow me to see it ? " 

Rachel opened her desk, and silently selected one of 
those clumsy and original missives, directed in a stagger- 
ing, round hand, on paper oddly shaped and thick, such 
as mixes not naturally with the aristocratic fabric, on 
which crests and ciphers are impressed, and placed it in 
her brother's hand. 

" But you can't read it without light," said Rachel. 

" No ; but there's no hurry. Does she say where she 
is staying, or her son ? " 

"Both, I think," answered Rachel, languidly; "but 
he'll never make a servant for you — he's a rough crea- 
ture, she says, and was a groom. You can't remember 
him, nor I either." 

" Perhaps — very likely ; " and he put the letter in his 
pocket. ' 7 



146 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" I was thinking, Rachel, "you could advise me, if you 
would, you are so clevel-, you know." 

"Advise!" said Rachel, softly ; but with a wild and 
bitter rage ringing under it. "I did advise when it was 
yet time to profit by advice. I bound you even by a 
promise to take it ! but you know how it ended ! You 
don't want my advice." 

" But really I do, Radie. I quite allow I was wrong 

— worse than wrong — but where is the use of attacking 
me now, when I'm in this dreadful fix ? I took a wrong 
step ; and what I now have to do is to guard myself, if 
possible, from what I'm threatened with." 

She fancied she saw his pale face grow more bloodless, 
even in the shadow where he sat. 

" I know you too well, Stanley. You want no advice. 
You never took advice — you never will. Your desperate 
and ingrained perversity has ruined us both." 

" I wish you'd let me know my own mind. I say I do 

— (and he uttered an unpleasant exclamation). Do you 
think I'll leave matters to take their course, and sit down 
here to be destroyed ? I'm no such idiot. I tell you I'll 
leave no stone unturned to save myself; and, in some meas- 
ure, you too, Radie. You don't seem to comprehend the 
tremendous misfortune that menaces me — us — you and 
me." 

And he cursed Mark Wylder with a gasp of hatred not 
easily expressed. 

She winced at the name, and brushed her hand to her 
ear. 

" Don't — don't — don't," she said, vehemently. 

" Well, what the devil do you mean by refusing to help 
me, even with a hint ? I say — I know — all the odds 
are against us. It is sometimes a long game ; but unless 
I'm sharp, I can't escape what's coming. Itan't — you 



WTLDER'S HjIjyD. l^>j 

can't — sooner or later. It is in motion already — d — 
him — it's coming, and you expect me to do everything 
alone." 

" I repeat it, Stanley," said Kachel, with a fierce cyn- 
icism in her low tones, " you don't want "advice : you have 
formed your plan, whatever it is, and that plan you will 
follow, and no other, though men and angels were united 
to dissuade you." 

There was a pause here, and a silence for a good many 
seconds. 

" Well, perhaps, I have formed an outline of a plan, 
and it strikes me as very well I have — for I don't think 
you are likely to take that trouble. I only want to ex- 
plain it, and get your advice, and any little assistance 
you can give me ; and surely that is not unreasonable ? " 

" I have learned one secret, and am exposed to one dan- 
ger. I have taken — to save you — it may be only a 
respite — one step, the ' remembrance of which is insup- 
portable. But I was passive. I am fallen from light into 
darkness. There ends my share in your confidence and 
your fortunes. I will know no more secrets — no more 
disgrace; do what you will, you shall never use me 
again." 

" Suppose these heroics of yours, Miss Radie, should 
contribute to bring about — to bring about the worst," 
said Stanley, with a sneer, through which his voice trem- 
bled. 

" Let it come — my resolution is taken." 

Stanley walked to the window, and in his easy way, as 
he would across a drawing-room to stand by a piano, and 
he looked out upon the trees, whose tops stood motionless 
against the darkened sky, like masses of ruins. Then he 
came back as gently as he had gone, and stood beside his 
sister ; she could not see his yellow eyes now as he stood 
with his back to the window. 



148 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" Well, Kadie, dear — you have put your hand to the 
plough, and you shan't turn back now." 

" You seem, sir, to fancy that I have no right to choose 
for myself," said Miss Rachel, spiritedly. 

" Now, Radie, you must be reasonable — who have I to 
advise with ? " 

" Not me, Stanley — keep your plots and your secrets 
to yourself. In the guilty path you have opened for me 
one step more I will never tread." 

" You'll see that you must, though. You'll see it in 
a little while. Self-preservation, dear Radie, is the first 
law of nature." , 

" For yourself, Stanley ; and for me, self-sacrifice," 
she retorted, bitterly. 

" Well, Radie, I may as well tell you one thing that 
I'm resolved to carry out," said Lake, with a dreamy 
serenity, looking on the dark carpet. " Do you recollect, 
Radie, what I said that morning when I first called here, 
and saw you?" 

" Perhaps I do, but I don't know what you mean," 
answered she. 

" I said he should go abroad, and so he shall," said 
Lake, in a very low tone, with a grim oath. 

" Why do you talk that way ? You terrify me," said 
Rachel, with one hand raised toward his face with a ges- 
ture of horror and entreaty, and the other closed upon his 
wrist. 

" I say he shall, Radie." 

" Has he lost his wits ? I can't comprehend you — you 
frighten me, Stanley. You're talking wildly on purpose, 
I believe, to terrify me. You know the state I'm in — 
sleepless — half wild — all alone here. You're talking 
like a maniac. It's cruel — it's cowardly." 

" I mean to do it — you'll see." 



WYLDER'S HA^TD. ^49 

Suddenly she hurried by him, and in a moment was in 
the little kitchen, with its fire and candle burning cheer- 
ily. Stanley Lake was at her shoulder as she entered, 
and both were white with agitation. 

Old Tamar rose up affrighted, her stiff arms raised, and 
uttered a blessing. She did not know what to make of it. 
Rachel sat down upon one of the kitchen chairs, scarce 
knowing what she did, and Stanley Lake halted near the 
threshold — gazing for a moment as wildly as she, with 
the ghost of his sly smile on his smooth, cadaverous face. 

" What ails her — is she ill, Master Stanley ? " asked 
the old woman, returning with her white eyes the young 
man's strange yellow glare. , 

"I — I don't know — maybe — give her some water," 
said Lake. 

" Glass of water — quick, child7' cried old Tamar to 
Margery. 

" Put it on the table," . said Rachel, collected now, but 
pale, and somewhat stern. 

"And now, Stanley, dear," said she, for just then she 
was past caring for the presence of the servants, " I4iope 
we understand one another — at least that you do me. If 
not, it is not for want of distinctness on my part ; and I 
think you had better leave me for the present, for, to say 
truth, I do not feel very well." 

" Good-night, Radio — good-night, old Tamar. I hope, 
Radie, you'Jl be better — every way — when next I see 
you. Good-night." 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

CAPTAIN LAKE FOLLOWS TO LONDON. 

Wyldbr's levanting in this way was singularly discon- 
certing. The time was growing short. He wrote with a 
stupid good-humor, and an insolent brevity which took no 
account of Miss Brandon's position, or of her noble rela- 
tives. Lord Chelford plainly thought more than he cared 
to say ; and his mother, who never minced matters, said 
perhaps more than she quite thought. 

" Lake has gone up to town this morning — some busi- 
ness with his banker about his commission — and he says 
he will make Wylder out on his arrival, and write to me," 
said Lord Chelford. 

Old Lady Chelford glanced across her shoulder at Dor- 
cas, who leaned back in a great chair by the window, 
listlessly turning over a book. 

" She's a strange girl, she does not seem to feel her 
situation — a most painful and critical one. That low, 
coarse creature must be looked up somehow." 

So, in a quiet key, Miss Dorcas being at a distance, 
though in the same room, the dowager and her son discuss- 
ed this unpleasant and very nervous topic. 

That evening Captain Lake was in London, comfortably 
quartered in a private hotel, in one of the streets off Pic- 
cadilly. He went to his club and dined better than he had 
done for many days. He really enjoyed his three little 
courses — his pint of claret, his cup of cafi noir and his 
chasse ; the great Babylon was his Jerusalem, and his 
spirit found rest there. 



WYLDER'S HJJVD. 151 

After dinner he got into a cab, and drove to Mark 
Wylder's club. Was he there ? — No. Had he been 
there to-day ? No. Or within the last week ? No ; 
not for two months. He had left his address, and was in 
the country. The address to which his letters were for- 
warded was " The Brandon Arms, Gylingden." 

So Captain Lake informed that functionary that his 
friend had come up to town, and asked him again whether 
he was quite certain that he had not called there or sent 
for his letters. No; nothing of the sort. Then Cap- 
tain Lake asked to see the billiard-marker, who was likely 
to know something about him. But he knew nothing. 
He certainly had not been at the " Lark's Nest," which 
was kept by the marker's venerable parent, and was a fa- 
vorite haunt of the gay Lieutenant. 

Then our friend Stanley, having ruminated for a min- 
ute, pencilled a little note to Mark, telling him that he 
was staying at Muggeridge's Hotel, 7 Hanover Street, 
Piccadilly, and wished most particularly to see him for a 
few minutes ; and this he left with the hall-porter, to give 
him should he call. 

Then Lake got into his cab again, having learned that 
he had lodgings in St. James's Street when he did not 
stay at the Club, and to these he drove. There he saw 
Mrs. M'Intyre, a Caledonian lady, at this hour somewhat 
mellow and talkative ; but she could say nothing to the 
purpose either. Mr. Wylder had not been there for nine 
weeks and three days ; and would owe her, on Saturday 
next, twenty-five guineas. So here, too, he left a little 
note to the same effect ; and, reentering his cab, he drove 
a long way, and past St. Paul's, and came at last to a 
court, outside which he had to dismount from his vehicle, 
entering the grimy quadrangle through a narrow passage. 
He had been there that evening before, shortly after his 



152 WYLJJER'S HAJVD. 

arrival, with old Mother Dutton, as he called her, about 
her son, Jim. 

Jim was in London looking for a situation, all which 
pleased Captain Lake ; and he desired that she should 
send him to his hotel to see him in the morning. 

But being in some matters of a nervous and impatient 
temperament, he had come again, as we see, hoping to 
find Jim there, and to anticipate his interview of the 
morning. ' 

This time he went to a somewhat mysterious and barri- 
cadoed place, where, in a blaze of light, -in various rooms, 
gentlemen in hats, and some in great coats, were playing 
roulette or hazard ; and I am sorry to say, that our friend, 
Captain Lake, played first at one, and then at the other 
with what .success exactly I don't know. Bat I don't think 
it was very far from four o'clock in the morning when he 
let himself into his family hotel with that latch-key, the 
cock's tail of Micyllus, with which good-natured old Mrs. 
Muggeridge obliged the good-looking Captain. 

Captain Lake having given orders the evening before, 
that anyone who might call in the morning, and ask to 
see him, should be shown up to his bed-room smis cere- 
monie, was roused from deep slumber at a quarter past 
ten, by a knock at his door, and a waiter's voice. 

" Who's that ? " drawled Captain Lake, rising, pale and" 
half awake, on his elbow, and not very clear where he 
was. 

" The man, sir, as you left a note for yesterday, which 
he desires to see you ? " 

" Tell him to step in." 

So out went the waiter in puipps, and the sound of 
thick shoes was audible on the lobby, and a sturdier knock 
sounded on the door. 

" Come in," said the Captain. 



WYLDER'S HAJVX). I53 

And Jim Button entered the room, and, closing the 
door, made at the side of the bed his reverence, consist- 
ing of a nod and a faint pluck at the lock of hair over his 
forehead. 

Now Stanley Lake had, perhaps, expected to see some 
one else ; for though this was a very respectable-looking 
fellow fon his walk in life, the gay young oflScer stared 
full at him, with a frightened and rather dreadful counten- 
ance, and actually sprang from his bed at the other side, 
with an ejaculation at once tragic and blasphemous. 

The man plainly had not expected to produce any such 
result, and looked very queer. Perhaps he thought some- 
thing had occurred to affect his personal appearance ; per- 
haps some doubt about the Captain's state of health, and 
misgiving as to delirium tremens may have flickered over 
his brain. 

They were staring at one another across the bed, the 
Captain in his shirt. 

At last the gallant officer seemed to discover things as 
they were. 

" And so it is you, Jim," said the Captain. " And 
how do you do — quite well, Jim — and out of place ? 
You've been hurt in the foot, eh ? sojold — your — Mrs. 
Dutton tells me, but that won't signify. I was dreaming 
whe_n you came in; not quite awake yet, hardly; just 
wait a bit till I get my slippers on ; and this " — So into 
his red slippers he slid, and got his great shawl dressing- 
gown, about his slender person, and greeted^ Jim Dutton 
again in very friendly fashion, enquiring very particular- 
ly how he had been ever since, and what his mother was 
doing ; and I'm afraid not listening to Jim's answers as 
attentively as one might have expected. 

Whatever may have been his intrinsic worth, Jim was 
not polished, and spoke, moreover, an uncouth dialect, 



154 WYLDER'S HAND. 

which broke out now and then. But he was in a sort of 
way attached to the Lake family ; the son of an heredita- 
ry tenant on that estate, which had made itself wings, and 
flown away like the island of Laputa. 

When they had talked together for a while, the Captain 
said — 

" The fact is, it is not quite on me you would have to 
attend ; the situation, perhaps is better. You have no 
objection to travel. You have been abroad, you know ; 
and of course wages and all that will be in proportion." 

Well, Jim had not any objection to speak of. 

" What's wanted is a trustworthy man, perfectly steady, 
you see, and a fellow who knows how to hold his tongue." 

The last condition, perhaps, struck the man as a little 
odd ; he looked a little confusedly, and he conveyed that 
he would not like to be in anything that was not quite 
straight. 

" Quite straight, sir ! " repeated Stanley Lake, looking 
round on him, sternly; "neither should I, I fancy. 
You are to suppose the case of a gentleman who is nurs- 
ing his estate — you know what that means — and wants 
to travel, and keep quite quiet, and who requires a steady, 
trustworthy man to look after him, in such a way as I 
shall direct, with very little trouble and capital pay. I 
have a regard for you, Dutton ; and seeing so good a sit- 
uation was to be had, and thinking you the fittest man I 
know, I wished to serve you and my friend at the same 
time." 

Dutton became grateful and docile upon this. 

" There are reasons, quite honorable I need not tell 
you, which make it necessary, James Dutton, that the 
whole of this affair should be kept perfectly to ourselves ; 
you are not to repeat one syllable I say to you to your 
mother, do you mind, or to any other person living. The 



WYLDER'S HM.JVD. 3^55 

gentleman is liberal, and if you can just hold your 
tongue, you will have little trouble in satisfying him upon 
all other points. But if you can't be quite silent, you 
had better, I frankly tell you, decline the situation, ex- 
cellent in all respects as it is." 

" I'm a man, sir, as can be close enough." 
" So much the better. You don't drink ? " 
Button colored a little and coughed and said — 
" No, sir." 

" You have your papers ? " 
" Yes, sir." 

So Jim Button made his bow, and departed ; and Cap- 
tain Lake continued to watch the door for some seconds 
after his departure, as if he could see his retreating figure 
through it. And, said he, with an oath, and his hand to 
his forehead, over his eyebrow — 

" It is the most unaccountable thing in nature ! " 
Then, after a reverie of some seconds, the young gen- 
tleman applied himself energetically to his toilet; and 
coming down to his sittting room, he looked into his 
morning paper, and then into the street and told the ser- 
vant as he sat down to breakfast, that he expected a gen- 
tleman named Wylder to call that morning, and to be 
sure to show him up directly. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 



That morning Lake's first report upon his inquisition 
into the whereabouts of Mark Wylder — altogether disap- 



156 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

pointing and barren — reached Lord Chelfbrd in a short 
letter ; and a similar one only shorter, found Lawyer Lar- 
kin in his pleasant breakfast parlor. 

Now this proceeding of Mr. Wylder's, at this particu- 
lar time, struck the righteous attorney, and reasonably, as 
a very serious and unjustifiable step. It actually threat- 
ened the engagement which was so near its accomplisli- 
ment. Some most powerful and mysterious cause must 
undoubtedly be in operation to induce so sharp a " party," 
to risk so huge a prize. Whatever eminent qualities 
Mark Wylder might be deficient in, the attorney very 
■well knew that cunning was not among the number. 

" It is nothing of the nature of debt — plenty of money. 
It is nothing that money can buy off easily either, thoug'h 
he does not like parting with it. Ten — twentxj to one 

— it is the old story — some unfortunate female connection 

— some ambiguous relation, involving a doubtful marri- 
age." 

After this Mr. Larkin's ruminations darkened, and 
grew, perhaps, less distinct. He had no particular objec- 
tion to a mystery. In fact, he rather liked it, provided he 
was admitted to confidence. A mystery implied a difScul- 
ty of a delicate and formidable sort ; and such difficulties 
were not disadvantagepus to a clever and firm person, who 
might render himself very necessary to an embarrassed 
principal with plenty of money. 

Mr. Larkin had a way of gently compressing his 
under-lip between his finger and thumb — a mild pinch, a 
reflective caress ■ — when contemplations of this nature 
occupied his brain. The silver light of heaven faded from 
his long face, a deep shadow of earth came thereon, and 
his small, dove-like eyes grew intense, hungry, and rat- 
like. 

When Jos Larkin had speculated for some time longer 
he said quietly to himself — 



WYLDEH'S SAJVD. I57 

" Yes." 

And then he ordered his dog-cart, and drove off to 
Dollington, and put up at Johnson's Hotel, where Stanley 
Lake had slept on the night of his sister's, return from 
Jjondon. Mr. Larkin got into a little brown room, looking 
into the inn garden, and called for some luncheon, and pen 
and ink, and had out a sheaf of law papers he had brought 
with him, tied up in professional red tape ; and asked the 
waiter, with a grand smile and recognition, how he did • 
and asked him next for his good fWend, Mr. Johnson ; and 
trusted that business was improving ; and would be very 
happy^ to see him for two or three minutes, if he could 
spare time. 

So, in due time, in came the corpulent proprietor, and 
Lawyer Larkin shook hands with him, and begged him to 
sit down, like a man who confers a distinction ; and assur- 
ed him that Lord Edward Buxleigh, whom he had recom- 
mended to stay at the house for the shooting, had been 
very well pleased with the accommodation — very highly so 
indeed — and his lordship had so expressed himself when 
they had last met at Sir Hugh Huxterly's, of Hatch 
Court. 

Then he inquired after the two heifers that Mr. Johnson 
was so good as to feed for him on his little farm ; and 
then he mentioned that his friend. Captain Lake, who was 
staying with him at his house at Gylingden, was also very 
well satisfied with his accommodation, when he, too, at 
Lawyer Larkin's recommendation, had put up for a night , 
at Johnson's Hotel ; and it was not every house which 
could satisfy London swells of Captain Lake's fashion and 
habits, he could tell him. 

Then followed some conversation which. I dare say, 
interested the lawyer more than he quite showed in Mr. 
Johnson's company. Jor when that pleased and com- 



158 WVLDEWS HAJVD. 

municative host had withdrawn, Jos Larkin made 
half-a-dozen little entries in his pocket-book, with " State- 
ment of Mr. William Johnson," and the date of their 
conversation, at the head of the memorandum. 

So the lawyer, having to run on as far as Charteris by 
the goods-train, upon business, walked down to the station, 
where, having half-an-hour to wait, he fell into talk with 
the station-master, whom he also knew, and afterwards with 
Tom Christmas, the porter ; and in the waiting-room he 
made some equally business-like memoranda. 

By the time his little book was again in the bottom of 
his pocket, the train had arrived, and doors swung open 
and clapt, and people got in and out to the porter's accom- 
paniment of " Dollington — Dollington — Dollington ! " 
and Lawyer Larkin took his place, and glided away to 
Charteris, where he had a wait of two hours for the 
return train, and a good deal of barren talk with persons 
at the station, rewarded by one or two sentences worth 
noting, and accordingly duly entered in the same little 
pocket-book. 

Thus was the good man's day consumed ; and when he 
mounted his dog-cart, at Dollington, wrapped his rug 
about his legs, whip and reins in hand, and the ostler 
buckled the apron across, the sun was setting redly behind 
the hills ; and the air was frosty, and the night dark, as 
he drew up before his own door-steps, near Gylingden. A 
dozen lines of one of these pages would suffice to contain 
the fruits of his day's work ; and yet the lawyer was 
satisfied, and even pleased with it, and eat his late dinner 
very happily ; and went to bed after a calm and pleased 
review of his memoranda, and slept the sleep of the 
righteous. 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

MARK WYLDER'S SUBMISSION. 

Evert day the position grew more critical and embar- 
rassing. The day appointed for the nuptials was now 
very near, and the bridegroom not only out of sight but 
wholly untraceable. What was to be done ? 

A long letter from Stanley Lake told Lord Chelford, in 
detail, all the measures adopted by that energetic young 
^ntleman for the discovery of the truant knight : — 

" I have been at his club repeatedly, as also at his 
lodgings — still his, though he has not appeared there 
since his arrival in town. The billiard-marker at his 
club knows his haunts ; and I have taken the liberty to 
employ, through him, several persons who are acquainted 
with his appearance, and, at my desire, frequent those 
places with a view to discovering him, and bringing about 
an interview with me. 

" He was seen, I have reason to believe, a day or two 
before my arrival here, at a low place called the " Millers' 
Hall," in the City, where- members of the " Fancy" 
resort, at one of their orgies, but not since. I have left 
notes for him wherever he is likely to call, entreating an 
interview. 

" On my arrival I was sanguine about finding him ; but 
I regret to say my hopes have very much declined,, and I 
begin to think he must have changed his quarters. If you 
have heard from him within the last few days, perhaps you 



160 WYLDER'S H.iJVn. 

will be so kind as to send me the envelop^ of his letter, 
which, by its postmark, may possibly throw some light, or 
hint some theory as to his possible movements. He is very 
clever ; and having taken this plan of concealing his resi- 
dence, will conduct it skilfully. If the case were mine, I 
should be much tempted to speak with the detective au- 
thorities, and try whether they might not give their as- 
sistance, of course without e'c/a^. But this is, I am aware, 
open to objection, and, in fact, would not be justifiable, 
exceptunder the very peculiar urgency of the case. 

" Will you be so good as to say what you think upon 
this poi^t ; also, to instruct me what you authorise me to 
say should I be fortunate ejiough to meet him. At present 
I am hardly in a position to say more than an acquaint- 
tance — never, I fear, very cordial on his part — would 
allow J which, of course, could hardly exceed a simpl* 
mention of your anxiety to be placed in communication 
with him. 

" If I might venture to suggest, I really think a per- 
emptory alternative should be presented to him. Writing, 
however, in ignorance of what may since have passed at 
Brandon, I may be assuming a state of things which, 
possibly, no longer exists. Pray understand that in any 
way you please to employ me, I am entirely at your com- 
mand. It is also possible, though I hardly hope it, that I 
may be able to communicate something definite by this 
evening's post. 

Whatever may be the cause of Mark Wylder's present 
line of conduct, it appears to me that if he really did 
attend that -meeting at the " Millers' Hall," there cannot 
be anything very serious weighing upon his spirits. My 
business will detain me here, I rather think, three days 
longer." 

By return of post Lord Chelford wrote to Stanley 
Lake : — 



WYLDER'S HAjVjD. IQ^ 

" I am very mucli obliged to you for all the trouble 
you have taken. Th^ measures which you have adopted 
are, I think, most judicious ; and I should not wish, on 
consideration, to speak to any official person. I think it 
better to trust entirely to the means you have already 
employed. I do not desire to speculate as to the causes of^ 
Wylder's extraordinary conduct ; but, all the circumstan- 
ces considered, I cannot avoid concluding, as you do, that 
there must be some very serious reason for it. I enclose 
a note, which, perhaps, you will be so good as to give him, 
should you meet before you leave town.'" 

" The note to Mark Wylder was in these terms: — 

" Dear Wylder, — I had hoped to see you before now 
at Brandon. Your unexplained absence longer continued, 
you must see, will impose on me the necessity of offering 
an explanation to Miss Brandon's friends, of the relations, 
under these strange circumstances, in which you and she 
are to be assumed to stand. You have accounted in no way 
for your absence. You have not even suggested a post- 
ponement of the day fixed for the completion of your 
engagement to that young lady ; and, as her guardian, I 
cannot avoid telling her, should I fail to hear explicitly 
from you within three days from this date, that she is at 
liberty to hold herself acquitted of her engagement to you. 
I do not represent to you how much reason every one 
interested by relationship in that young lady has to feel 
offended at the disrespect with which you have treated 
her. Still hoping, however, that all may yet be explain- 
ed, 

" I remain, my dear Wylder, yours very truly, 

" Chblford." 

Lord Ohelford had not opened the subject to Dorcas. 



162 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

Neither had old Lady Chelford, although she harangued 
her son upon it as volubly and fiercely as if he had been 
Mark Wylder in person, whenever he and she were 
tete-d-tete. She was extremely provoked, too, at Dor- 
cas's evident repose under this astounding treatment, and 
was enigmatically sarcastic upon her when they sat together 
in the drawing-room. 

This evening, in the drawing-room, there were two 
very pretty ormolu caskets upon the little marble table. 

'• So, so, something new, and very elegant and pretty," 
said the old lady holding her head high, and looking as if 
slie were disposed to be propitiated. " I think I can risk a 
conjecture. Mr. Wylder is about to reappear, and has 
despatched these heralds of apprfiach, no doubt, suitably- 
freighted, to plead for his re-acceptance into favor. You 
have heard, then, from Mr. Wylder, my dear Dorcas ? " 

" No, Lady Chelford," said the young lady, with a 
grave serenity, turning her head leisurely towards her. 

"No? Oh, then where is my son? He, perhaps, 
can explain ; and pray, my dear, what are these ? " 

" These caskets contain the jewels which Mr. Wylder 
gave me about six weeks since. I had intended restoring 
them to him : but as his return is delayed, I mean to 
place them in Chelford's hands ; because I have made up 
my mind, a week ago, to put an end to this odious engage- 
ment. It is all oven" 

Lady Chelford stared at the audacious young lady with 
a look of incensed amazement for some seconds, unable to 



" Upon my word, young lady ! vastly fine and inde- 
pendent ! You chasser Mr. Wylder -without one mo- 
ment's notice, and without deigning to consult me, or any 
other person capable of advising you. You are about to 
commit as gross and indelicate a breach of faith as I recoi- 



WYLDEWS Hj1JVJ3. 168 

lect anywhere to have heard of. What^will be thought ? 
— what will the world say ? Will you be good enough 
to explain yourself? I'll not undertake your excuses, I 
promise you." 

" Excuses ! I don't think of excuses, Lady Chelford ; 
no person living has a right to demand one." 

" I don't believe you are serious, Dorcas," said Lady 
Chelford, more anxiously, and also more gently. I can't 
suppose it. I'm an old woman, my dear, and I shan't 
trouble you very long. I can have no object in mislead- 
ing you, and you have never experienced from me any- 
thing but kindness and aflection. I think you might 
trust me a little, Dorcas — but, that, of course, is for you, 
you are your own mistress now — but, at least,, you may 
reconsider the question you gropose deciding in so extra- 
ordinary a way. I allow you might do much better than 
Mark Wylder, but also worse. He has not a title, and 
his estate is not enough to carry the point d force d' ar- 
gent ; I grant all that. But together the estates are 
more than most titled men possess ; and the real point is 
the fatal slip in your poor uncle's will, which makes it so 
highly important that you and Mark should be united ; 
bear that in mind, dear Dorcas. You must not act pre- 
cipitately, and under the influence of mere pique. His 
absence, I will lay my life, will be satisfactorily accounted 
for ; he has set his heart upon this marriage, and I really 
think you will almost drive him mad if you act as you 
threaten." 

" You have, indeed, dear Lady Chelford, been always 
very kind to me, and I do trust you," replied the beauti- 
ful heiress, turning her large, shadowy eyes upon the 
dowager, and speaking in slow and silvery accentn, 
somehow very melancholy.. "I dare say it is very im- 
prudent, and I don't deny that Mr. Wylder may have 



164 WYLDER'S HAJVD. ■ 

reason to complain of me, and the world will not spare me 
either ; but I have quite made up my mind, and nothing 
can ever change me ; all is over between me and Mr. Wyl- 
der — quite over — for ever." ' 

" Upon my life, young lady, this is being very sharp, 
indeed. Mr. Wylder'a business detains him a day or two 
longer than he expected, and he is punished by a final dis- 
missal ! " 

" So far, dear Lady Chelford, from provoking me to 
this decision, his absence is, I assure you, the sole reason 
of my having delayed to inform him of it." 

" And I assure you, Miss Brandon, T shan't undertake 
to deliver your monstrous message. He will probably be 
here to-morrow. You have prepared an agreeable sur- 
prise for him. You shall have the pleasure of adminis- 
"tering it yourself, Miss Brandon. For my part, I have 
done my duty, and here and now renounce all responsi- 
bility in the future management of your affairs." 

Saying which, she rose, in a stately and incensed way, 
and looking with flashing eyes over Dorcas's head to a far 
corner of the apartment, with'out another word she rus- 
tled slowly and majestically from the drawing-room. 

She was a good deal shocked, and her feelings quite 
changed, however, when next morning the post brought a 
letter to Chelford from Mark Wylder, bearing . the Bou- 
logne post-mark. It said — 

" Dear Chelfoed, — Don't get riled ; but the fact is 
I don't see my way out of my present business " — (this_ 
last word was substituted for another, crossed out, which 
looked like " scrape") — " for a couple of months, may- 
be. Therefore you see, my liberty and wishes being at 
present interfered with, it would be very hard lines if 
poor Dorcas should be held to her bargain. Therefore, I 



WVLDER'S HAJVD. lg5 

will say this — she is quite free for me. Only, of course 
I don't decline to fulfil my part whenever at liberty. 
In the meantime, I return the miniature, with her hair in 
it, which I constantly wore about me since I got it. But 
I have no right to it any longer, till I know her decision. 
Don't be too hard on me, dear Chelford. It is a very old 
lark has got me into this present vexation. In the mean- 
time, I wish to make it quite clear what I mean. Not 
being able by any endeavor " — (here a nautical phrase 
scratched out, and "endeavor " substituted) — ^' of mine 
to be up to time, and as these are P. P. affairs I must 
only forfeit. I mean, I am at the lady's disposal, either to 
fulfil my engagement the earliest day I can, or to be 
turned adrift. That is all I can say.- 

" In more trouble than you suppose, I remain, dear 
Chelford, yours, whatever you may think, faithfully," 

"Mark Wtlder." 



CHAPTEE XXIX. 

new MARK WTLDER'S DISAPPEARANCE AFFECTED HIS 
FRIENDS. 

Ladt Chelford's wrath was now turned anew upon 
Wylder — and the inconvenience of having no visible ob- 
ject on which to expend it was once more painfully felt. 
Railing at Mark Wylder was, alas ! beating the air. The 
most crushing inyective was — thanks to his adroit mys- 
tification — simply a soliloquy. Poor -Lady Chelford, 
who loved to give the ingenious youngsters of both sexes, 
when occasion invited, a piece of her mind was here — 
absolutely tongue- tied ! If it had been possible to tell 



l66 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

Wylder what she thought of him it would, perhaps, have 
made her more tolerable than she was, for some days after 
the arrival of that letter, to other members of the family. 

The idea of holding Miss Brandon to this engagement, 
proroguing her nuptials from day to day, to convenience 
the bridegroom — absent without explanation — was quite 
untenable. Foi:tunately, the marriage, considering the 
antiquity and the territorial position of the two families 
who were involved, was to have been a very quiet affair 
indeed — no festivities — nothing of the nature of a coun- 
ty gala — no concussions of society — a dignifisd but se- 
cluded marriage. 

This divested the inevitable dissolution of these high 
relations of much of its eclat and ridicule. 

Of course there was abundance of talk. Scarce a man 
or woman in the shire but had a theory or a story — 
sometimes bearing hard on the lady, sometimes on the 
gentleman ; still it was an abstract breach of promise, 
and would have much improved by some outward and 
visible sign of disruption and disappointment. Some 
concrete pageantries to be abolished and removed ; flag- 
staffs, for instance, and banners, marquees, pyrotechnic 
machinery, and long tiers of rockets, festoons of ever- 
greens, triumphal arches with appropriate mottoes, lo 
come down and hide themselves away, would have been 
pleasant to the many who like a joke, and to the few who 
love a sneer. 

But there were no such fopperies to hurry off the stage 
disconcerted. In the autumnal sun, among the thinning 
foliage of the noble trees, Brandon Hall looked solemn, 
sad, and magnificent, as usual, with a sort of retrospective 
serenity, buried in old-world glories and sorrows, and 
heeding little the follies and scandals of the hour. 

In the same way Miss Brandon, with Lord and Lady 



WYLDER'S HAjYD. 167 

Chelford, -wus seen next Sunday afternoon, serene and 
unchanged, in the great carved oak Brandon pew, raised 
like a dais two feet at least above the level of mere Chris- 
tians, who frequented the family chapel. When the good 
Vicar, the Rev. William Wylder, at three o'clock, per- 
formed his holy office in reading desk and pulpit, the good 
folk from Gylingden assembled in force, saw nothing no- 
ticeable in the demeanor or appearance of the great Bran- 
don heiress. No shadow of trouble on that calm marble 
beauty, no light of joy, but a serene superb indifference. 

Of course there was some satire in Gylingden ; but, 
m the main, it was a loyal town, and true to its princess. 
Mr. Wylder's settlements were not satisfactory, it was 
presumed, or the young lady could not bring herself to 
like him, or however it came to pass, one way or another, 
that sprig of willow inevitably to be mounted by hero or 
heroine upon such equivocal occasions was placed by the 
honest town by no means in her breast, but altogether in 
his button-hole. 

Gradually, in a more authentic shape, information 
traceable to old Lady Chelford, through some of the old 
county families who visited at Brandon, made it known 
that Mr. Wylder's affairs were not at present by any 
means in so settled a state as was supposed ; and that a 
long betrothal not being desirable on the whole. Miss 
Brandon's relatives thought it advisable that the engage- 
ment should terminate, and had so decided, Mr. Wylder 
having, very properly, placed himself absolutely in their 
hands. 

As for Mark, it was presumed, he had gone into volun- 
tary banishment. 

It was know to be quite final, and as the lady evinced 
no chagrin and affected no unusual spirits, but held, 
swanlike and majestic, the even tenor of her way, there 



168 WYLDER'S HAKD. 

was on the whole, little doubt anywhere that the gentle- 
man had received his congi and was hiding his mortification 
and healing his wounds in Paris or Vienna, or some other 
suitable retreat. 

But though the good folk of-Gylingden, in general, 
cared very little how Mark Wylder might have disposed 
of himself, there was one inhabitant to whom his absence 
was fraught with very serious anxiety and inconvenience. 
This was his brother, William, the Vicar. 

Poor William, sound in morals, free from vice, no dandy, 
a quiet, bookish, self-denying mortal, was yet, when ho 
took holy orders and quitted his chambers at Cambridge, 
as much in debt as many a scamp of his college. He had 
been, perhaps, a little foolish and fanciful in the article of 
books, arid had committed a serious indiscretion in the 
matter of a carved oak bookcase ; and, worse still, he 
had published a slender volume of poems, and a bulkier 
tome of essays, scholastic and theologic, both which ven- 
tures, notwithstanding their merits, had turned out un- 
happily ; and worse still, he had lent that costly loan, 
his sign manual, on two or three occasions, to friends in' 
need, and one way or another found that, on winding 
up and closing his Cambridge life, his assets fell short 
of his liabilities very seriously. 

He had staved off some of his troubles by a little ^loan 
from an insurance company, but the premium and the in- 
stalments were disf»roportioned to his revenue, and indeed 
very nearly frightful to contemplate. The Cambridge 
. tradesmen were growing minatory ; and there was a stern 
person who held a renewal of one of his old paper subsi- 
dies to the necessities of his scampish friend Clarkson, 
who was plainly a difficult and awful character to deal 
with. 

Dreadful as were the tradesmen's peremptory and wrath- 



ful letters, the promptitude and energy of this latter per- 
sonage were such as to produce a sense of immediate dan- 
ger so acute that the sacred Vicar opened his dismal case 
to his brother Mark. 

Mark, sorely against the grain, and with no good grace, 
at last consented to advance 300Z. in this dread emergen- 
cy, and the Vicar blessed his benefactor, and in his closet 
on his knees, shed tears of thankfulness over his deliver- 
ance, and the sky opened and the flowers looked bright, 
and life grew pleasant once more. 

But the 300^. were not yet in his pocket, and Mark had 
gone away ; and although of course the loan was sure to 
come, the delay — any delay in his situation — was criti- 
cal and formidable. Still he would not believe it possible 
that he could forget his promise, or shut up his bowels of 
mercy, or long delay the remittance which he knew to be 
so urgently needed. 

In the meantime, however, a writ reached the hand of 
the poor Vicar of Naunton Friars, who wrote in eager 
and confused terror to a friend in the Middle Temple on 
the dread summons, and learned that he was now " in 
court," and must "appear," or suffer judgment by de- 
fault. 

The end was that he purchased a respite of three 
months, by adding thirty pounds to his debt, and so was 
thankful for another deliverance, and was confident of the 
promised subsidy within a week, or at all events a fort- 
night, or at worst — three months was a long reprieve — 
and the subsidy must arrive before the emergency. 

When the " service " was over, the neighborly little 
congregation, with a sprinkling of visitors to- Gylingden, 
for sake of its healing waters, broke up, and loitered in 
the vicinity of the porch, to remark on the sermon or the 
weather, and ask one another how they did, and to see the 



170 WYLDER'S HJIJVJD. 

Brandon family enter their carriage ; and, this incident 
over, they broke np gradually into little groups, in Sun- 
day guise, and many colors, some for a ramble on the 
common, and some to tea, according to the primitive hours 
that ruled old Gylingden. 

The Vicar, and John Hughes, clerk and sexton, were last 
out ; and the reverend gentleman, thin and tall, in white 
necktie, and' black, a little threadbare, stood on the steps 
of the porch, in a sad abstraction. The sound of the oak 
door closing heavily behind him and John Hughes, and the 
key revolving in the lock recalled him, and with a sigh 
and a smile, and a kindly nod to John, he looked up and 
round on the familiar and pretty scenery undecided. It 
was not quite time to go home ; his troubles were heavy 
upon him, too, just then ; and the quiet of the road, and 
the sweet air and sunshine, tempted him to walk oflf the 
chill and fever of the fit. 

As he passed the little cottage where old Widow Mad- 
dock lay sick, Rachel Lake emerged. He was not glad. 
He would rather have had his sad walk in his own shy 
company. But there she was — he could not pass her 
by ; so he stopped, and lifted his hat and greeted .her ; 
and then they shook hands. She was going his way. He 
looked wistfully on the little hatch of old Widow Mad- 
dock's cottage ; for he felt a pang of reproach at passing 
her door ; but there was no comfort then in his thoughts, 
only a sense of fear and hopeless fatigue. 

" How is poor old Mrs. Maddock ? " he asked ; " you 
have been visiting the sick and afflicted, and I was pass- 
ing by ; but, indeed, if I were capable at this moment I 
should not fail to see her, poor creature." 

There was something apologetic and almost miserable in 
his look as he said this. 

" She is not better ; but you have been very good to 



WVLDER'S HAJYD 171 

her, and she is very grateful ; and I am glad," said Ra- 
chel, " that I happened to light on you." 

They were hy this time walking side by side ; and she 
glanced at him enquiringly ; and he thought thart the 
handsome girl looked rather thin and pale. 

" You once said," Miss Lake resumed, " that sooner or 
later I should be taught the value of religion, and would 
learn to prize my great privileges; and that for some 
spirits the only approach to the throne of mercy was 
through great tribulation. I have often thought since of 
those words, and they have begun, for me, to take the 
spirit of a prophecy — sometimes that is — but at others 
they sound differently — like a dreadful menace — as if 
my afflictions were only to bring me to the gate of life to 
find it shut." 

" Knock, and it shall be opened," said the Yicar ; but 
the comfort was sadly spoken, and he sighed. 

" But is there not a time, Mr. Wylder, when He shall 
have shut the door, and are there not some who, crying to 
him to open, shall yet remain for ever in outer darkness." 

" I see, dear Miss Lake, that your mind is at work — 
it is a good influence — at work upon the great theme 
which every mortal spirit ought to be employed upon." 

" My fears are at work ; my mind is altogether dark 
and turbid ;. I am sometimes at the brink of despair." 

" Take comfort from those fears. There is hope in that 
despair ; " and he looked at her with great interest in his 
gentle eyes. 

She looked at him, and then away toward the declining 
sun, and she said despairingly — 

" I cannot comprehend you." 

Miss Lake's way lay by a footpath across a corner of 
the park to Redman's Dell. So they crossed the stile, 



172 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

and still conversing, followed the footpath under the hedge- 
row of the pretty field, and crossing another stile, entered 
the park. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

IN BRANDON PARK. 

Still pursuing her solemn and melancholy discoursep 
the young lady followed the path, accompanied hy the 
Vicar. 

*' Truth," said the Vicar, "your mind is disturbed, 
but not by doubt. No ; it is by truth." He glanced 
aside at the tarn where I had seen the phantom, and by 
which their path now led them — " You remember Par- 
nell's pretty image ? 

So when a smooth expanse receives imprest 
Calm nature's image on its watery breast, 
Down bend the banks, the trees depending grow. 
And sties beneath with answering colors glow ; 
But if a stone the gentle scene divide. 
Swift ruffling circles curl on every side. 
And glimmering fragments of a broken sun. 
Banks, trees, and skies, in thick disorder run. 

But, as I said, it is not a doubt that agitates your mind 
— that is well represented by the " stone," that subsides 
and leaves the pool clear, it maybe, but stagnant as be- 
fore. Oh, no ; it is an angel who comes down and trou- 
bles the water." 

" What a heavenly evening ! " said a low, sweet voice, 
but with something insidious in it, close at his shoulder. 



TVYLDER'S HAJVD. I73 

With a start, Rachel glanced back, and saw the pale, 
peculiar face of her brother. His yellow eyes for a mo- 
ment gleamed into hers, and then on the Vicar, and, with 
his accustomed smile, he extended his hand. 

" How do you do ? — better, I hope, Radio ? How are 
you, "William?" 

Rachel grew deadly pale, and then flushed, and then 
was pale again. 

" I thought, Stanley, you were in London." 

" So I was ; but I arrived here this morning ; I'm stay- 
ing for a few days at the Lodge — Larkin's house ; you're 
going home, I suppose, Radie 7 " 

" Yes — oh, yes — but I don't know that I'll go this 
way. You say you must return to Gylingden now, Mr. 
Wylder ; I think I'll turn also, and go home that way." 

" Nothing would give me greater pleasure," said the 

Yicar, truly as well as kindly, for he had grown interested 

in their conversation ; " but I fear you are tired " — he 

looked very kindly on her pale face — " and you know it 

-will cost you a walk of more than two miles." 

" I forgot — yes — I believe I am a liiile tired ; I'm 
afraid I have led you, too, farther than you intended." 
She fancied that her sudden change of plan on meeting 
her brother would appear odd. 

" I'll see you a little bit on your way home, Radie," said 
Stanley. 

It w^s just what she wished to escape. She was more 
nervous, though not less courageous than formerly. But 
the old, fierce, defiant spirit awoke. Why should she fear 
Stanley, or what could it be to her whether he was beside 
her in her homeward walk ? 

So the Vicar made his adieux there, and began, at a 
brisker pace, to retrace his steps toward Gylingden ; and 
she and Stanley, side by side, walked on toward Redman's 
Dell. 



174 WYLDER'S HAJ^B. 

" What a charming- park ! and what delightful air, Ra- 
dio ; and the -weather so very delicious. They talk of 
Italian evenings; but there is a pleasant sharpness in Eng- 
lish evenings quite peculiar. Is not there just a little 
suspicion of frost — not actually cold, but crisp and sharp 
— unspeakably exhilarating ; now really, this evening is 
quite celestial." 

" I've just been listening to a good man's conversation, 
and I wish to reflect upon it," said Rachel, very coldly. 

"Quite so; that is, of course, when you are alone," 
answered Stanley, serenely. " WilKam was always a very 
clever fellow to talk — very well read in theology — is 
not he ? — it is a pity he is not quite straight, or at least 
more punctual, in his money afikirs." 

"He is distressed for money? William Wy Ider is dis- 
tressed for money ! Do you mean ^A«^.'"' said Rachel, 
in a tone of sudden surprise and energy, turning full upon 
him, and stoppipg short. 

" Oh, dear ! no — not the least distressed that I ever 
heard of," laughed Stanley coldly — "only just a little 
bit roguish, maybe." 

" That's so like you, Stanley," said the young lady, 
with a quiet scorn, resuming her onward walk. 

" How very beautiful that clump of birch trees is, near 
the edge of the slope there ; you really can't imagine, who 
are alv/ays here, bow very intensely a person who had just 
escaped from London enjoys all this." 

: " I don't think, Stanley," said the young lady, coldly, 
and looking straight before her as she walked, " you ev- 
er cared for natural scenery — or liked the country — 
and yet you are here. I don't think you ever loved me, 
or cared whether I was alone or in company ; and yet 
seeing — for you did see it — that I would now rather be 
alone, you persist in walking with me, and talking of trees 



WYLDER'S HAJYD I75 

and air and celestial evenings, and thinking of something 
quite different. Had you not better turn back to Gyling- 
den, or the Lodge, or -wherever you mean to pass the- eve- 
ing, and leave me to my quiet walk and my solitude ? " 

" In a few minutes, dear Radie — you are so odd. I 
really believe you think no one can enjoy a ramble like 
this but yourself" 

" Come, Stanley, what do you want ? " said his sister, 
stopping short, and speaking with the flush of irritation on 
her cheek — " do you mean to walk to Kedman's Dell, or 
have you anything unpleasant 1 say ? " 

" Neither, I hope," said the Captain, with his sleepy 
smile. 

" I don't understand you, Stanley, I am always uncom- 
fortable when you are near me. You stand there like an 
evil spirit, with some purpose which I cannot divine ; but 
you shall not ensnare me. Pursue your own plots — 
your wicked plots ; but let me rest. I will be released, 
sir, from your presence." 

" Really this is very fine, Radie, considering how we 
are related ; I'm Mephistophiles, I suppose, and you Mar- 
garet, or some other simple heroine — rebuking the fiend 
in the majesty of your purity." 

" I tell you, Stanley, I feel that you design employing 
me in some of your crooked plans. I have horrible rea- 
sons, as you know, for avoiding you, and so I will. I hope 
I may never desire to see you alone, again, but if I do, it 
shall not be to receive, but to impose commands. You 
had better return to Gylingden, and leave me." 

" So I will, dear Radie, by-and-by," said he, with his 
amused smile. ^ 

" That is, you won't until you have said what you med- 
itate. Well, then, as it seems I must hear it, pray speak 
at once, standing where we are, for the sun will soon go 
down, and one step more I will not walk with you." 



176 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" Well, Radie, you are pleased to be -whimsical ; and, to 
say truth, I was thinking of saying a word or two, just 
about an idea that has been in my mind some time, and 
which you half divined the first day I saw you at Redman's 
Farm. You know you fancied I was thinking of marry- 
ing." 

" I don't remember that I said so, but I thought it. You 
mentioned Caroline Beauchamp, but I don't see how 
your visit here could have been connected with that plan." 

" But don't you think, Radie, I should do well to marry, 
that is, assuming everything to be suitable." 

" Well, perhaps, for yourself, Stanley ; but — " 

" Yes, of course," said Lake; "but the unfortunate 
girl, you were going to say — thank you. She's, of 
course, very much to be pitied, and you have my leave to 
pity her as much as you please." 

" I do pity her," said Rachel. 

" Thank you again," said Stanley ; " but seriously, 
Radie, you can be, I think, very essentially of use to me 
in this affair, and you must not refuse." 

" Now, Stanley, I will cut this matter short. I can't 
- serve you. I won't. I don't know the young lady, and I 
don't mean to make her acquaintance." 

" But I tell you that you can serve me," retorted Stan- 
ley, with a savage glare, and features whitened with pas- 
sion, " and you shall serve me ; and you do know the 
young lady intimately." 

" I say, sir, I do nof" replied Rachel, haughtily and 
fiercely. 

" She is Dorcas Brandon ; you know her, I believe. I 
came down here to marry her. I had made up my mind 
when I saw you first, and I'll carry my point ; I always 
do. She does not like me, maybe ; but she shall. I nev- 
er yet resolved to make a woman like me, and failed. You 



WTLDER'S HAKD. 177 

need not look so pale ; and put on that affected look of 
horror. I may be wild, and — and what you please, but 
I'm no worse than that brute, Mark Wyldcr, and you 
never turned up your eyes when he was her choice- and 
I knew things about him that ought to have damned him, 
and she's well rid of a branded rascal. And now, Ra- 
chel, you know her, and you must say a good word for 
me. I expect your influence, and if you don't use it, and 
effectually, it will be worse for you. So, listen to me, 
this is a vital matter ; indeed, it is. Radio. I have lost a 
lot of money, like a — fool, I suppose ; well, it is gone, 
and this marriage is indispensable. I must go in for it, it is 
life or death ; and if I fail through your unkindness (here 
he swore an impious oath), I'll end all with a pistol, and 
leave a letter to Chelford, disclosing everything concern- 
ing you, and me, and Mark Wylder. 

I think Rachel Lake was as near fainting as ever lady 
was, without actually swooning. It was well they had 
stopped just by the stem of a great ash tree, against which 
Rachel leaned for some seconds, with darkness before her 
eyes, and the roar of a whirlpool in her ears. 

After a while, with two or three gasps, she came to 
herself. Lake had been railing on all this time, and his 
voice, which, in ill-temper, was singularly bleak and ter- 
rible, was again in her ears the moment she recovered her 
hearing. 

" I do not care to quarrel ; there are many reasons why 
we should not," Lake said in his peculiar tones. "You 
have some of my secrets, and you must have more; it 
can't be helped, and, I say, you must. I've been very 
foolish. I'll give up play. I've paid away all I could, 
and given bills for the rest; but I can't possibly pay 
them, don't you see ; and if things" go to the worst, I tell 
you I'll not stay. I don't want to make my bow just yet, 
8* 



178 WYLDER'S HJlJVD. 

and I've no wish to injure you, but I'll do as I have said, 
and Chelford shall have a distinct statement under my 
hand of everything that has happened. I don't suppose 
you -wish to be accessary to all this, and therefore it be- 
hoves you, Rachel, to do what you can to prevent it. 
You'll do all you can ; and you can do a great deal. I 
know it ; I'll do as much for you, Radie ! Anything you 
like." 

" After all that I have done and suffered ! " said she, 
with a faint smile of unimaginable bitterness ; "I did not 
think that human wickedness could produce such a brother 
as you are." 

" Well, it is no news you think of me,-«,nd not much 
matter, either. I don't see that I am a wsrse brother than 
you are a sister." Stanley Lake was speaking with a 
livid intensity. " You see how I'm placed ; a ruined man 
with a pistol to Taj head ; what you can do to save me 
may amount to nothing, but it may be everything, and 
you say you won't try ! Now I say you shall, and with 
every energy and faculty you possess, or else abide the 
consequences." 

" And I tell you, sir," replied Rachel, " I know you ; 
you are capable of anything but of hurting yourself. I'll 
never be your slave ; though, if I pleased, I might make 
you mine. I scorn your threats — I defy you." 

Stanley Lake looked transported, and the yellow fires 
of his deep-set eyes glared on her, while his lips moved to 
speak, but not a word came, and it became a contortion ; 
he grasped the switch in his hands as if to strike her. 

" Take care, sir, Lord Chelford's coming," said the 
young lady, haughtily, -with a contracted glance of horror 
fixed on Lake. 

Lake collected himself. He was a man who could doit 
pretty quickly ; but he had been violently agitated, and 
the traces of his fury could not disappear in a moment. 



WYLDER'S HSjYD. ]^79 

Lord Ohelford was, indeed, approaching, only a few 
hundred yards away. 

" Take my arm," said Lake. 

And Rachel mechanically, as story-tellers say, placed 
her slender gloved hand upon his arm — the miscreant 
arm that had been so nearly raised to strike her ; and they 
walked along, brother and sister, in the Sabbath sunset 
light, to meet him. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

IN REDMAN'S D E L t. 

Lord Chelfoed raised his hat, smiling : "I am so 
very glad I met you, I was beginning to feel so solitary ! " 
he placed himself beside Miss Lake. " I've had such a 
long walk across the park. How do you do. Lake ; when 
did you come ? " 

And so on — Lake answering and looking wonderfully 
as usual. 

I think Lord Ohelford perceived there was something 
amiss between the young people, for his eye rested on Ra- 
chel with a momentary look of enquiry, unconscious, no 
doubt, and quickly averted, and he went on chatting pleas- 
antly ; but he looked, once or twice, a little hard at Stan- 
ley Lake. I don't think he had an extraordinarily good 
opinion of that young gentleman. He seldom expressed 
an ill one of anybody, and then it was in very measured 
language. But though he never hinted at an unfavorable 
estimate of the Captain, his intimacies with him were re- 
served ; and I think I have seen him, even when he smiled, 



180 WYLDER'S HJIJVD. 

look the least bit in the world uncomfortable, as if he did 
not quite enter into the Captain's pleasantries. 

They had not walked together very far, when Stanley 
recollected that he must take his leave, and walk back to 
Gylingden ; and so the young lady and Lord were left to 
pursue their way towards Redman's Farm together. 

It would have been a more unaccountable proceeding on 
the part of Stanley Lake, and a more romantic situation, 
if Rachel and his lordship liad not had before two or three 
little accidental rambles together in the grounds and gar- 
dens of Brandon. There was nothing quite new in the 
situation, therefore ; and Rachel was for a moment in- 
describably relieved by Stanley's departure. 

It was rather a marked thing — as lean Mrs. Loyd, of 
Gylingden, who had two thin spinsters with pink noses 
under her wing, remarked — this long wallc of Lord Chel- 
ford and Miss Lake in the park ; and she enjoined upon 
her girls the propriety of being specially reserved in their 
intercourse" with persons of Lord Chelford's rank ; not 
that they were much troubled with dangers from any such 
quarter. Miss Lake had, she supposed, her own notions, 
and would act as she pleased ; but she owned for her part 
she preferred the old fashion, and thought the men did 
also ; and was sure, too, that young ladies lost nothing by 
a little reserve and modesty. 

The sun just touched the verge of the wooded uplands, 
as the young people began to descend the slope of Red- 
man's Dell. 

" How very short ! " Lord Chelford paused, with a 
smile, at these words. " I was just going to say how short 
the days have grown, as if it had all happened without 
notice, and contrary to the almanac ; but really the sun 
sets cruelly early this evening, and I ajn so i^ery sorry our 
little walk is so soon to end." 



WVLDER'S HJIJVD 181 

There was not much in this little speech, but it was 
spoken in a low, sweet voice ; and Rachel looked down on 
the ferns before her feet, as they walked on side by side, 
not with a smile, but with a blush, and that beautiful look 
of gratification so becoming and 'indescribable. Happy 
that moment — that enchanted moment of oblivion and 
illusion ! But the fitful, evening breeze came up through 
Redman's Dell, with a gentle sweep over the autumnal 
foliage. Sudden as a sigh, and cold ; in her ear it sound- 
ed like a whisper or a shudder, and she lifted up her eyes 
and saw the darkening dell before her ; and with a pang, 
the dreadful sense of reality returned. She stopped, with' 
something almost wild in her look. But with an efibrt 
she smiled, and said, with a little shiver, " The air has 
grown quite chill, and the sun nearly set ; we loiteredj 
Stanley and I, a great deal too long in the park, but I am 
now at home, and I fear I have brought you much too far 
out of your way already ; good-bye." And she extended 
her hand. 

" You must not dismiss your escort here. I must see 
you through the enchanted dell — it is only a step — and 
then I shall return with a good conscience, like a worthy 
knight, having done my devoir honestly." 

She ' looked down the dell, with a dark and painful 
glance, and then she said a few words of hesitating apolo- 
gy and acquiescence, and in a few minutes more they 
parted at the little wicket of Redman's Farm. They 
shook hands. He had a few pleasant, lingering words to 
say. She paused as he spoke at the other side of that 
little garden door. She seemed to like those lingering 
sentences — and hung upon tbem — and even smiled — 
but in her eyes there was a vague and melancholy plead- 
ing — a wandering and unfathomable look that pained 
him. 



182 WYLDER'S HAJVn. 

They shook hands again — it was the third time — and 
then she walked up the little gravel walk, hardly a dozen 
steps, and disappeared within the door of Redman's Farm, 
without turning another parting look on Lord Chelford, 
who remained at the little paling — excepting one, I think 
— to lift his hat and say one more parting word. 

She turned into the little drawing-room at the left, 
and, herself unseen, did take that last look, and saw him 
go up the road again towards Brandon. 

On the table there lay a letter which Margery had 
brought from the post-office. So Rachel lighted her can- 
dles and read it with very little interest, for it concerned 
a world towards which she had"few yearnings. There was 
just one sentence which startled her attention : it said, 
"We shall soon be at Knowlton — for Christmas, I 
suppose. It is growing too wintry for mamma near the sea, 
though I like it better in a high wind than in a calm ; and 
a gale is such fun — such a romp. The Dulhamptons 
have arrived : the old Marchioness never appears till three 
o'clock, and only out in the carriage twice since they came. 
I can't say I very much admire Lady Constance, though she 
is to be Chelford's wife. She has fine eyes — and I think 
no other good point — much too dark for my taste — but 
they say clever ;" and not another word was there on this 
subject. 

Lady Constance ! arranged, I suppose, by Lady Chel- 
ford — no gi-eat dot — and an unamiable family — an 
odious family — nothing to recommend her but ber 
rank." 

So ruminated Rachel Lake as she looked out on her 
shadowy garden, and tapped a little feverish tattoo with 
her finger on the window pane ; and she meditated a great 
while, trying to bring back distinctly her recollection of 
Lady Constance, and also vaguely conjecturing who had 
arranged the marriage, and how it had come about. " 



WVLDER'S HAJVD. 183 

" Chelford cannot like her. It is all Lady Chelford's 
doing. Can I have mistaken the name ? " 

But no. Nothing could he more perfectly distinct than 
" Chelford," traced in her fair correspondent's very legible 
hand. 

" He treats the young lady very coolly," thought Ra- 
chel, forgetting, perhaps, that his special relations to Dor- 
cas Brandon had compelled his stay in that part of the 
world. 

Mingled with this criticism, was a feeling quite unavow- 
ed even to herself — that Lord Chelford had been — and this 
she never admitted to herself before — more particular — 
no, not exactly that — but more something or other — not 
exactly expressible in words, in his approaches to her, than 
was consistent with his sitnation. But then she had been 
very guarded ; not stiff or prudish, indeed, but frank and 
cold enough with him, and that was comforting. 

" Rachel, Rachel, is it possible ? " murmured the young 
lady, with a dubious smile, looking down upon the ground, 
and shaking her head. " Yes, I do really think you had, 
begun to like Lord Chelford — only begun, the least little 
insidious bit ; but thank you, wild Bessie Frankleyn, you 
have quite opened my eyes. Rachel, Rachel, girl ! what 
a fool you were near becoming ! " 

She leaned for a while with her fingers upon the window 
sash ; and when she turned to old Tamar, who brought in 
her tiny tea equipage, it seemed as if the shadow of the 
dell, into which she had been vacantly gazing, still rested 
on her face. 

" Not here, T4mar ; I'll drink tea in my room ; and 
you must bring your tea-cup, too, and we'll take it togeth- 
er. I am — I think I am — a little nervous, darling, and 
you won't leave me ? " 

So they" sat down together in her chamber. It was a 



184 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

cheery little bedroom, -when the shutters were closed, and 
the fire burning brightly in the grate. 

" My good Tamar will read her chapters aloud. I wish 
I could enjoy them like you. 1 can only wish. You 
must pray for me, Tamar. There is a dreadful image 
— and I sometimes think a dreadful being — always near 
me. Though the words you read are sad and awful, they 
are also sweet, like funeral music a long way off, and they 
tranquilize me without making me better, as the harping 
of David did the troubled and forsaken King Saul." 

So the old nurse mounted her spectacles, glad of the 
invitation, and began to read. 

" Stop," said Rachel suddenly, as she reached about the 
middle of the chapter. 

The old woman looked up, with her watery eyes wide 
open, and there was a short pause. 

" I beg your pardon, dear Tamar, but you must first 
tell me that story you used to tell me long ago of Lady 
Ringdove, that lived in Epping Forest, to whom the ghost 
came and told something she was never to reveal, and who 
slowly died of the secret, growing all the time more and 
more like the spectre ; and besought the priest when she 
was dying, that he would have her laid in the abbey vault, 
with her mouth open, and her eyes and ears sealed, in to- 
ken that her term of slavery was over, that her lips might 
now be open, and that her eyes were to see no more the 
dreadful sight, nor her ears to hear the frightful words 
that used to scare them in her life -time ; and then, whey 
ever afterwards they opened the door of the vault, the wind 
entering in, made such meanings in her hollow mouth, and 
declared things so horrible that they built up the door of 
the vault, and entered it no more. Let me have the entire 
story, just as you used to tell it." 

So old Tamar, who knew it was no use disputing a 



WYLDER'S ITAJVD. 185 

fancy of her young mistress, although on Sunday night 
she -would have preferred other talk, recounted her old 
tale of wonder. 

"Yes, it is true — a true allegory, I mean, Tamar. 
Death will close the eyes and ears against the sights and 
sounds of earth ; hut even the tomb secures no secrecy. 
Oh, Tamar ! turn over the pages, and try to find some 
part which says where safety and peace may be found at 
any price ; for sometimes I think I am almost bereft of 
— reason." 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

ME. LAKKIN AND THE VICAK. 

The good Vicar was not only dismayed but endangered 
by his brother's protracted absence. It was now the first 
week in November., Bleak and wintry that ungenial 
month set in at Gylingden ; and in accord with the tem- 
pestuous and dismal weather the fortunes of the Rev. 
William Wylder were darkened and agitated. 

This morning a letter came at breakfast, by post, and 
when he had read it, the poor Vicar grew a little white, 
and he folded it very quietly and put it in his waistcoat 
pocket, and patted little Fairy on the head. Little Fairy 
was asking him a question all this time, very vehemently, 
" HoAV long was Jack's sword that he killed the giants 
with?" and several times to this distinct question he 
received only the unsatisfactory reply, " Yes, my darl- 
ing;" and at last, when little Fairy mounted his knee, and 
hugged the abstracted Vicar round the neck, urged his 



186 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

question with kisses and lamentations, the parson answered 
with a look of great perplexity, and only half-recalled 
said, "'Indeed, little man, I don't know. How long, you 
say, was Jack's sword ? "Well, I dare say it was as long 
as the umbrella." He got up, with the same perplexed and 
absent look, as he said this, and threw an anxious glance, 
about the room, as if looking for something he had mis- 
laid. 

" Are you looking for anything, Willie, darling? 
Your keys are in my basket." 

' ' No, darling ; no, darling — nothing. I have every- 
thing I want. I, think I must go to the Lodge and see 
Mr. Larkin, for a moment." 

" Have you heard anything of Mark, darling ? " she 
enquired eagerly. 

" Of Mark ? Oh, no ! — nothing of Mark." And he 
added with a deep sigh, " Oh, dear ! I wonder he does not 
write — no, nothing of Mark." 

She followed him into the hall. 

" Now, Willie darling, you must not go till you have 
had your breakfast — you will make yourself ill — indeed 
you will — do come back, just to please me, and eat a 
little first." 

" No, darling ; no, my love — I can't indeed. I'll be 
back immediately ; but I must catch Mr. Larkin before 
he goes out. It is only a little matter — I want to ask 
his opinion — and — oh ! here is my stick — and I'll re- 
turn immediately." 

So, spite of remonstrances, with a hurried kiss or two, 
away he went alone, at a very quick pace, through the 
hi^h street of Gylingden, and was soon in the audience 
chamber of the serious, gentleman attorney. 

The attorney rose with a gaunt and sad smile of wel- 
come — and begged Mr. Wylder, with a wave of his long 
hand, to be seated. 



WYLDER'S HAJSTD 187 

" Have you heard anything since, Mr Larkin ? Can 
you conjecture where his address may now he ? " asked 
the Vicar, a little abruptly. 

" Oh ! Mr. Mark Wylder, perhaps, you refer to ? " 
" Yes ; my brother, Mark," 

Mr. Larkin smiled a sad and simple smile, and shook 
his head. 

" I have heard from him this morning, however," re- 
marked the lawyer ; " he was pleased to direct a power 
of attorney to me to. receive his rents and sign receipts ; 
and he proposes making Lord Viscount Chelford and 
Captain Lake trustees, to fund his money or otherwise in- 
vest it for his use, and " — 

" Has he — I beg pardon — but did he mention a little 
matter in which I am deeply — indeed, vitally interest- 
ed ? " The Vicar paused. 

" I don't quite apprehend ; perhaps if you were to 
frame your question a little differently, I might possibly 
— a — you were saying " — 

" I mean a matter of very- deep interest to me," said 
the popr Vicar, coloring a little, " though no very consid- 
erable sum, viewed absolutely ; but, under my unfortu- 
nate circumstances, of the most urgent importance — a 
loan of three hundred pounds — did he mention it ? " 

Again Mr. Larkin shook his head, with the same sad 
smile. , 

" But, though we do not know how to find him, he 
knows very well where to find us — and no doubt he re- 
collects his promise, and will transmit the necessary direc- 
tions all in good time." 

" I earnestly hope he may," and the poor cleric lifted 
up his eyes unconsciously and threw his hope into the 
form of a prayer. " For, to speak frankly, Mr. Larkin, 
my circumstances are very pressing. I have just heard 



188 WYLDER'S HSJSTD. 

from Cambridge, and find that my good friend, Mr. 
Mountain, the bookseller, has been dead two months, and 
his wife is his sole executrix, and has sold the business, 
and directed two gentlemen — attorneys — to call in all 
the debts due to him — peremptorily — and they say I 
must pay before the 15th ; and I have but five pounds in 
the world, until March, when my half-year will be paid. 
And indeed, only that the trades-people here are so very 
kind, we should often find it very difiScult to manage." 

"Perhaps," said Mr. Larkin, blandly, "you would 
permit me to look at the letter you mention having re- 
ceived from the solicitors at Cambridge ? " 

" Oh, thank you, certainly ; here it is," said William 
Wylder, eagerly, and he gazed with his kind, truthful 
eyes upon the attorney's countenance as he glanced over 
it, trying to read something of futurity therein. 

" Foukes and Mauley," said Mr. Larkin. "I have 
had but one transaction with them ; they are not always 
pleasant people to deal with. You must be cautious ; in- 
deed, my dear sir, very cautious. The fifteenth — just 
ten clear days. Well, you know you have till then to 
look about you ; and we may any day hear • from your 
brother, directing the loan to be paid over to you. And 
now, my dear and reverend friend, you know me, I hope," 
continued Mr. Larkin, very kindly, as he handed back 
the letter; "and you won't attribute what I say to im- 
pertinent curiosity ; but your brother's intended advance 
of three hundred pounds can hardly have had relation 
only to this trifling claim upon you. There are, no 
doubt — pardon me — several little matters to be ar- 
ranged ; and considerable circumspection will be needed, 
pending your brother's absence, in dealing with the per- 
sons who are in a position to press their claims unpleas- 
antly. You must not trifle with these things. And lot 



WYLDER'S HAjYD. Jgg 

me recommend you seeing your legal adviser, whoever he 
is, immediately." 

" You mean," said the Vicar, who was by this time 
very much flushed, " a gentleman of your profession, Mr. 
Larkin. Do you really think — well, it has frequenj;ly 
crossed my mind — but the expense, you know ; and al- 
though my affairs are in a most complicated state, I am 
sure that everything would be perfectly smooth if only I 
had received the loan my kind brother intends. 

" But, my dear sir, do you really mean to say that you 
would pay claims from various quarters — how old is this, 
for instance ? — without examination ! " 

The Vicar looked very blank. 

"I — this — well, this I certainly do owe ; it has in- 
creased a litttle with interest, though good Mr. Mountain 
never charged more than six per cent. It was I think, 
about fifteen pounds — books — I am ashamed to say how 
long ago. 

" Were you of age, my dear sir, when he gave you these 
books on credit ? " 

" Oh ! no ; not twenty ; but then I owe it, and I could 
not, as a Christian man, you know, evade my debts." 

" Of course ; but you can't pay it at present, and it 
may be highly important to enable you to treat this as a 
debt of honor, you perceive. Suppose, my dear sir, they 
should proceed to arrest you, or to sequestrate the revenue 
of your vicarage. I really must tell you, frankly, that if 
you dream of escaping the most serious consequences, 
you must at once place yourself and your affairs in the 
hands of a competent man of business. It will probably 
be found that you do not in reality owe sixty pounds of 
every hundred claimed against you." 

" Oh ! Mr. Larkin, if I could induce you." 

Mr. Larkin smiled a melancholy smile, and shook his 
head. 



190 WYLDER'S HAJVX). 

" My dear sir, I only wish I could ; but my hands are 
so awfully full," and he lifted them up and shook them, 
and shook his tall, bald head at the same time, and smiled 
a weary smile. 

" It was very unreasonable of me to think of troubling 
■you with my wretched affairs ; but really I do not know 
very well where to turn, or whom to speak to. Maybe, 
my dear sir, you can think of some conscientious and 
Christian practitioner who is not so laden with other peo- 
ple's cares and troubles as you are." 

Mr. Larkin stood at the window ruminating, with his 
left hand in his breeches pocket, and his right, with finger 
and thumb pinching his under lip, after his wont, and the 
despairing accents of the poor Vicar's last sentence still 
in his ear. 

" Well," he said, hesitatingly, " it is not easy, at a 
moment's notice, to point out a suitable solicitor; there 
are many, of course, very desirable gentlemen, but I feel 
it, my dear sir, a very serious responsibility, naming one 
for so peculiar a matter. But- you shall not go to the 
wall for want of advice. Rely upon it, we'll do the best 
we can for you," he continued, in a patronising way, with 
his chin raised, and extending his hand kindly to shake 
that of the parson. Can you give me two hours to- 
morrow evening — say to tea — if you will do me the 
honor. My friend, Captain Lake, dines at Brandon to- 
morrow. He's staying here with me, you are aware, on 
a visit ; but we shall be quite by ourselves, say at seven 
o'clock. Bring all your papers, and I'll get at the root 
of the business, and see, if possible, in each particular 
case, what line is best to be adopted." 

" How can I thank you, my dear sir, cried gentle "Wil- 
liam Wylder, his countenance actually beaming with de- 
light and gratitude. " I feel as if my prayer for direction 



WrLBER'S HAJSTD. jgi 

and deliverance were answered at last. Oh ! my dear 
sir, I have suffered a great deal'; but something assures 
me I am rescued, and shall have a quiet mind once more 
— I am now in safe and able hands." And he shook the 
safe and able, and rather large, hands of the amiable at- 
torney in both his. 

" You make too much of it, my dear sir. I should at 
any time be most happy to advise you," said Mr. Larkinj 
with a lofty and pleased benevolence, " and with great 
pleasure, provisionally, until we can hit upon a satisfac- 
tory solicitor, with a little more time at his disposal, I 
undertake the management of your case." 

" Thank Heaven ! " again said the Vicar, who had not 
let go his hands. " And it is . so delightful to have for 
my guide a Christian man, who, even were I so disposed, 
would not lend himself to an unworthy or questionable 
defence ; and although at this moment it is not in my 
power to reward your invaluable assistance " — 

' ' Now really, my dear sir, I must insist — no more of 
this, I beseech you- I do most earnestly insist that you 
promise me you will never mention the matter of profess- 
ional remuneration more, until, at least, I press it, which, 
rely upon it, will not be for a good while." 

The attorney's smile plainly said, that his " good 
while " meant in fact " never." 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

THE LADIES OP GYLINGDEN HEATH. 

JtrST at this moment they became aware of a timid little 
tapping which had been going on at the window during 



192 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

the latter part of this conference, and looking up, the at- 
torney and the Vicar saw "little Fairy's" violet eyes 
peering under his light hair. 

" I beg pardon," said the Vicar, rising with a sudden 
smile, and going to the window. " It is my little man. 
Fairy ! Fairy ! What has brought you here, my little 
man?" 

Fairy glanced, -shamefacedly at the grand attorney, and 
in his little fist he held a pair of rather seedy gloves to 
the window pane. 

" So I did. I protest I forgot my gloves. Thank you, 
little man. Who is with you ? Oh ! I see. That is 
right." 

The maid ducked a short courtesy. 

" Indeed, sir, please, Master Fairy was raising the 
roof (a nursery phrase, which implied indescribable bel- 
lowing), and as naughty as could be, until missis allowed 
him to come after you." 

" Oh ! my little man, you must not do that. Ask nice- 
ly you know ; always quietly, like a little gentleman." 

" But, oh ! Wapsie, your hands would be cold ; " and 
he held the gloves to him against the glass. 

" Well, darling, thank you ; you are a kind little man, 
and I'll be with you in a moment," said the Vicar, smil- 
ing very lovingly on his naughty little man. 

" Mr. Larkin," said he, turning very gratefully to the 
attorney, "you can lay this Christian comfort to your 
kind heart, that you have made mine a hundredfold light- 
er since I entered this blessed room, by the timely proffer 
of your invaluable assistance." 

Again the attorney waved off, with a benignant and 
humble smile, rather oppressive to see, all idea of obliga- 
tion, and accompanied his grateful client to the glass door 
of his little porch, where Fairy was already awaiting him 
with the gloves in his hand. 



WVLDER'S HAND I93 

The attorney stood at his window with a shadow on his 
face, and his small eyes a little contracted and snakelike, 
following the slim figure of the threadbare Vicar and his 
goldenhaired, dancing little comrade ; and then he mounted 
a chair, and took down successively four of his japanned 
boxes ; two of them, in yellow letters, bore respectively the 
label " Brandon, No. 1," and ''No. 2 ; " the other, 
" Wylder, No. 1," and " No. 2." 

He opened the " Wylder" box first, and glanced through 
a neat little " statement of title," prepared for counsel 
when draughting the deed of settlement for the marriage 
which was never to take place, 

" The limitations, let me see, is not there something 
that one might be safe in advancing a trifle upon — eh ? — 
h'm — yes." 

And, with his lip in his finger and thumb, he conned 
over those remainders and reversions with a skilled and 
rapid eye. 

Rachel Lake was glad to see the slender and slightly- 
stooped figure of the Vicar standing that morning — his 
bright little boy by the hand — in the wicket of the tiny 
flower-garden of Redman's Farm. She went out quickly 
to greet him. The sick man likes the sound of his kind 
doctor's step on the stairs ! and, be his skill much or little, 
trusts in him, and will even joke a little asthmatic joke, 
and smile a feeble hectic smile about his ailments, when 
he is present. 

So they fell into discourse among the autumnal flowers 
and withered leaves ; and, as the day was still and genial, 
they remained standing in the garden ; and away went 
busy little " Fairy," smiling and chatting with Margery 
to see the hens and chickens in the yard. 

They talked a long while — Rachel chiefly a listener, 
and often quietly .weeping ; and, at last, a very kindly 
9 



194 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

parting, and a promise from the simple and gentle Vicar 
that he would, often look in at Redman's Farm. 

She watched his retreating figure as he and little Fairy 
walked down the tenebrose road to Gylingden, following 
them with a dismal gaze, as a benighted and wounded 
wayfarer in that " Valley" would the pale lamp's disap- 
pearing that had for a few minutes, in a friendly hand, 
shone over his dreadful darkness. 

And when, in fitful reveries, fancy turned for a moment 
to an earthly past and future, all there was a blank — the 
past saddened, the future bleak. She did not know, or even 
suspect, that she had been living in an aerial castle, and 
worshipping an unreal image, until, on a sudden, all was 
revealed in that chance gleam of cruel lightning, the line 
in that letter, which she read so often, spelled over, and 
pozzled over so industriously,' though it was clear enough. 
How noble, how good how bright and true, was that hero 
of her unconscious romance. 

Well, no one else suspected that incipient madness — 
that was something ; and brave Rachel would quite master 
it. Happy she had discovered it so soon. Besides, it was, 
even if Chelford were at her feet, a wild impossibility 
now ; and it was well, though despair were in the pang, 
that she had, at last, quite explained this to herself 

As Rachel stood in her little garden, on the spot where 
she had bidden farewell to the Vicar, she was roused from 
her vague and dismal reverie by the sound of a carriage 
close at , hand. She had just time to see that it was a 
brougham, and to recognise the Brandon liveries, when it 
drew up at the garden wicket, and Dorcas called to her 
from the open window. 

" I'm come, Rachel, expressly to take you with me ; and 
I won't be denied." 

" You are very good, Dorcas ; thank you, dear, very 



WYLDER'S HJJVD. I95 

much ! but I am not very well, and a very dull companion 
to-day." 

" You think I am going to bore you with visits. No 
such thing, I assure you. I have taken a fancy to walk 
on the common, that is all — a kind of longing ; and you 
must come with me ; quite to ourselves, you and I. You 
won't refuse me, darling ; I know you'll come." 

Well, Rachel did go. And away they drove through 
the quiet town of Gylingden together, and through the 
short street on the right, and so upon the still quieter 
common. This plain of green turf broke gradually into a 
heath ; and an irregular screen of timber and underwood 
divided the common of Gylingden in sylvan fashion from 
the moor. The wood passed, Dorcas stopped the carriage, 
and the two young ladies descended. It was a sunny day, 
and the air still; and the open heath contrasted pleasantly 
with the somber and confined scenery of Redman's Dell. 

" It was good of you to come, Rachel," said Miss Bran- 
don ; " and you look tired ! but you shan't speak more 
than you like ; and I'll tell you all the news. Chelford 
is just returned from Brighton ; he arrived this morning ; 
and he and Lady Chelford will stay for the Hunt Ball. I 
made it a point. And he called at Hockley, on his way 
back, to see Sir Julius. Do you know him ? " 

" Sir Julius Hockley ? No — I've heard of him 
only." 

" Well, they say he is wasting his property very fast ; 
and I think him every way very nearly a fool ; but Chel- 
ford wanted to see him about Mr. Wylder. Mark Wylder, 
you know, of course, has turned up again in England. 
His letter to Chelford, six weeks ago, was from Boulogne ; 
but his last was from Brighton ; and Sir Julius Hockley 
witnessed — I think they call it — that letter of attorney 
which Mark sent about a week since to Mr. Larkin ; and 



196 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

Chelford, who is most anxious to trace Mark Wylder, 
having to surrender — I think they call it — a " trust" 
is not it — or something — I really don't understand these 
things — to him, and not being able to find out his address, 
Mr. Larkin wrote to Sir Julius, whom Chelford did not 
find at home, to ask him for a description of Mark, to as- 
certain whether he had disguised himself ; and Sir Julius 
wrote to Chelford such an absurd description of poor Mark, 
in doggrel rhyme — so like — his odd walk, his great 
whiskers, and everything. Chelford does not like person- 
alities, but he could not help laughing. Are you ill, dar- 
ling?" 

Though she was walking on beside her companion, Ra- 
chel looked on the point of fainting. 

" My darling, you must sit down ; you do look very 
ill. I forgot my promise about Mark Wylder. How 
stupid I have been ; and perhaps I have distressed you." 

" No, Dorcas, I am pretty well ; but I have been ill, 
and I am a little tired ; and, Dorcas, I don't deny it, I am 
amazed, you tell me such things. That letter of attorney, 
or whatever it is, must not be acted upon. It is incredible. 
It is all horrible wickedness. Mark Wylder's fate is 
dreadful, and Stanley is the mover of all this. Oh ! Dor- 
cas, darling, I wish I could tell you everything. Some 
day I may be — I am sick and terrified." 

They had sat down, by this time, side by side, on the 
crisp bank. Each lady looked down, the one in suffering, 
the other in thought. 

" You are better, darling ; are not you better ? " said 
Dorcas, laying her hand on Rachel's and looking on her 
with a melancholy gaze. 

" Yes, dear, better — very well " — answered Rachel, 
looking up, but without an answering glance at her cous- 
in. 



WYLBER'S HjUVB. 197 

" You blame your brother, Rachel, in this affair." 

" Did I ? Well — maybe — yes, he is to blame — the 
miserable man — whom I hate to think of, and yet am 
always thinking of — Stanley well knows is not in a state 
to do it." 

" Don't you think, Rachel, remembering what I have 
confided to you, that you might be franker with me in 
this ? " 

" Oh, Dorcas ! don't misunderstand me. If the secret 
were all my own — Heaven knows, hateful as it is, how 
boldly I would risk all, and throw myself on your, fidelity 
or your mercy — but this is not mine — only in part — 
that is, I dare not tell it — but may be soon free — and 
to us all, dear Dorcas, a woful, woful day will it be." 

" I made you a promise, Rachel," said her beautiful 
cousin, gravely, and a little coldly and sadly, too ; "I 
will never break it again — it was thoughtless. Let us 
each try to forget that there is anything hidden between 
us." 

" If ever the time comes, dear Dorcas, when I may tell 
it to you, I don't know whether you will bless or hate me 
for having kept it so well ; at all events, I think you'll pity 
me, and at last understand your miserable cousin." 

" I said before, Rachel, that I liked you. You are one 
of us, Rachel. You are beautiful, wayward, and daring, 
and one way or another, misfortune always waylays us • 
and /have, I know it, calamity before me. There is not 
a beautiful portrait in Brandon that has not a sad and true 
story. Come, Rachel, shall we escape from the spell and 
the destiny into solitude ? What do you think of my old 
plan of the valleys and lakes of Wales ; a pretty foreign 
tongue spoken round us, and no one but ourselves to com- 
mune with, and books, and music. It is not, Radie, 
altogether jest. I sometimes yearn for it, as they say 
foreign girls do for convent lire." 



198 WYLDER'S HSJVD 

" Poor Dorcas," said' Rachel, very softly, fixing her 
eyes upon her with a look of inexpressible sadness and 
pity. 

"Rachel," said Dorcas, "I am a changeable being — 
violent, self-willed. My fate may be quite a different one 
from that which / suppose or you imagine. I may yet 
have to retract my secret." 

"Oh! would it were so — would to Heaven it were 
so." 

" Suppose, Rachel, that I had been deceiving you — 
perhaps deceiving myself — time will show." 

There was a wild smile on beautiful Dorcas's face as she 
said this, which faded soon into the proud serenity that was 
its usual character. 

" Oh ! Dorcas, if your good angel is near, listen to his 
warnings." 

" We have no good angels, my poor Rachel ; what 
modern necromancers, conversing with tables, call " mock- 
ing spirits," have always usurped their place with us. 

" Dorcas, dear," said Rachel, after both had been silent, 
for a time, speaking suddenly, and with a look of pale and 
keen entreaty — " Beware of Stanley — oh! beware. 
I think I am beginning to grow afraid of him myself" 

Dorcas was not given to sighing — but she sighed — 
gazing sadly across tlie wide, bleak moor, with her proud, 
apathetic look, which seemed passively to defy futurity — 
and then, for awhile, they were silent. 

Each understood that the conversation on that theme 
was ended, and somehow each was relieved. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

SIK JULIUS HOCKLEY'S LBTTEK. 

Jos Larkin mentioned in his conversation witli the 
Vicar, just related,- that he had received a power of at- 
torney from Mark Wylder. 

This legal instrument was attested by two witnesses, and 
bore date about a week before the interview, just related, 
between the Vicar and Mr. Larkin. Here, then, was a 
fact established. Mark Wylder had returned from 
Boulogne, for the power of attorney had been executed at 
Brighton. Who were the witnesses ? One was Thomas 
Tupton, of the Travellers' Hotel, Brighton. 

This Thomas Tupton was something of a sporting cel- 
ebrity, and a likely man enough to be of Mark's acquain- 
tance. 

The other witness was Sir Julius Hockley, of Hockley, 
an unexceptionable evidence, though a good deal on the 
turf 

Now our friend Jos Larkin had something of the Red 
Indian's faculty for tracking his game, by hardly percept- 
ible signs and tokens, through the wilderness ; and this 
mystery of Mark Wylder's flight and seclusion was the 
present object of his keen and patient pursuit. 

On receipt of the " instrument," therefore, he wrote 
by return of post, " presenting his respectful compliments 
to Sir Julius Hockley, and deeply regretting that, as so- 
licitor of the Wylder family, and the gentleman {sic) em- 
powered to act under the letter of attorney, it was imper- 



200 WYLDER'S BAJVD. 

ative upon him to trouble him (Sir Julius H) with a few 
interrogatories, which he trusted he would have no difficul- 
ty in answering." 

The first was, whether he had been acquainted with 
Mr. Wylder's personal appearance before seeing him 
sign, so as to be able to indentify him. The second was, 
whether he (Mr. M. W.) was accompanied, at the time of 
executing the instrument, by any friend ; and if so, what 
were the name and address of such friend. And the third 
was whether he could communicate any information what- 
soever respecting Mr. M. W.'s present place of abode ? 

The same queries were put in a somewhat peremptory 
way to the sporting hotel-keeper, who answered that Mr. 
Mark Wylder had been staying for a week at his house, 
about five months ago , and that he had seen him twice 
— once " backing " Jonathan, when he beat the great 
American billiard -player ; and another time, when he lent 
him his copy of " Bell's Life," in the coffee-room ; and 
thus he was enabled to identify him. For the rest he 
could say nothing. 

Sir Julius's reply was of the hoity-toity and rollicking 
sort, bordering in parts very nearly on nonsense, and gen- 
erally impertinent. It reached Mr. Larkin as he set at 
breakfast with his friend, Stanley Lake. 

" Pray read your letters, and don't mind me, I entreat. 
Perhaps you will allow me to look at the ' Times ; ' and 
I'll trouble you for the sardines." 

The postmark " Hockley," stared the lawyer in the 
face ; and, longing to break the seal, he availed himself 
of the Captain's permission. So Lake opened the 
" Times ; " and, as he studied its columns, I think he 
stole a glance or two over its margin at the attorney, now 
deep in the letter of Sir Julius Hockley. 

He (Sir J. H.) " presented his respects to Mr. l&rkens, 



WVLDER'S H^JVD. 201 

or Larkms, or Larkme, or Larkw* — Sir J. H, is not 
able to read which or what ; but he is happy to observe 
at all events, that, end how he may, the gentleman begins 
with a ' lark ! ' which Sir J. H. always does when he can. 
Not being able to discover his terminal syllable, he will 
take the liberty of styling him by his sprightly beginning, 
and calling him shortly ' Lark ; ' and by way of a lark, Sir 
J. will answer Lark's questions, which are not, he thinks, 
very inpertinent. The wildest of all Lark's questions, 
refers to Wylder-'s place of abode, which Sir J. was never 
wild enough to think of asking after, and does not know ; 
and so little was he acquainted with the gentleman, that 
■he forgot he was an evangelist doing good under the style 
and title of Mark. Lark may, therefore, tell Mark, if he 
sees him, or his friends — Matthew, Luke, and John — 
that Sir Julius saw Mark only on two successive days, at 
the cricket-match, played between Paul's Eleven and the 
Ishmaelites (these, I am bound to observe, were literally 
the designations of the opposing sides) ; and that he had 
the honor of being presented to Mark — saint or sinner, 
as he may be — on the ground, by his, Sir J. H.'s, friend, 
Captain Stanley Lake, of the Guards." 

Here was an astounding fact. Stanley Lake had been 
in Mark Wylder's company only ten days ago, when that 
great match was played at Brighton ! What a deep gen- 
tleman was that Stanley Lake, who sat at the other end 
of the table with the " Times " before him. What a var- 
nished rascal — what a matchless liar ! 

, He had returned to Gylingden, direct, in all likelihood, 
from his conferences with Mark Wylder, to tell all con- 
cerned that it was vain endeavoring to trace him, and still 
offering his disinterested services in the pursuit. 

No matter ! We must take things coolly and cautiously. 
All this chicanery will yet break down, and the conspiracy, 
9* 



202 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

he it what it may, will be thoroughly exposed. Mystery 
is the shadow of guilt ; and, most assuredly, thought Mr. 
Larkin, there is some infernal secret, well worth knowing, 
at the bottom of all this. You little think I have you 
here ! and he slid Sir Julius Hockley's piece of banter 
into his waistcoat pocket, and then opened and glanced at 
half-a-dozen other letters, in a quick, official way, endors- 
ing a little note on the back of each with his pencil. 

" Paul's Eleven have challenged the Gipsies," said 
Lake, languidly lifting his eyes from the paper. By-the- 
by, are you anything of a cricketer ? And they are to 
play at Hockley, Sir Julius Hockley's ground. You know 
Sir Julius, don't you ? " 

" Very slightly. I may say I have that honor, but we 
have never been thrown together ; a mere — a — the slight- 
est thing in the world." 

" Not schoolfellows — you are not an Eton, man, eh ? '" 
said Lake. 

" Oh no ! My dear father would not send a boy of his 
to what he called an idle school. But my acquaintance 
with Sir Julius was a trifling matter. Hockley is a very 
pretty place, is it not ? " 

" A sweet place. A great match was played between 
those fellows at Brighton ; Paul's Eleven beat fifteen of 
the Ishmaelites, about a fortnight since ; but they have 
no chance with the Gipsies. It will be a one-innings af- 
fair." 

" Have you ever seen Paul's Eleven play ? " asked the 
lawyer, carelessly taking up the newspaper which Lake had 
laid down. 

" I saw them play that match at Brighton, I mentioned 
just now, a few days ago." 

"Ah! did you?" 

" Did not you know I was there ? " said Lake in rath- 



WVLDER'S H^JVD. 203 

er a changed tone. Larkin looked up, and Lake laughed 
in his face quietly the most impertinent laugh he had ever 
seen or heard, with his yellow eyes fixed on the lawyer's 
pink little optics. " I was there, and Hockley was there, 
and Mark Wylder was there — was not he ? " and Lake 
stared and laughed, and the attorney stared ; and Lake 
added, "What ad — d cunning fellow you are; ha, ha, 
ha!" 

Larkin was not easily put out, but he was disconcerted 
now ; and his cheeks and forehead grew suddenly pink, 
and he coughed a little, and tried to throw a look of mild 
surprise into his face. 

" Why, you have this moment had a letter from Hock- 
ley. Don't you think I knew his hand and the post-mark, 
and your look said quite plainly, ' Here's news of my 
friend Stanley Lake and Mark Wylder.' I really think 
1 have brought my little evidences very prettily together, 
and jumped to a right conclusion — eh ? " 

A flicker of that sinister shadow I have sometimes 
mentioned crossed Larkin's face, and contracted his eyes 
as he said, a little sternly — 

" I have nothing on earth to conceal, sir. All my con- 
duct has been as open as the light ; there's not a letter, 
sir, I ever write or receive, that might not, so far as / am 
concerned, lie open on that table for every visitor that 
comes in to read ; " and the attorney waved his hand grand- 

" Hear, hear, hear," said Lake, languidly, and tapping 
a little applause on the table, while he watched the solici- 
tor's rhetoric with his sly, disconcerting smile. 

" It was but conscientious. Captain Lake, that I should 
make, enquiry respecting the genuineness of a legal instru- 
ment conferring such powers. How on earth, sir, could I 
have the slightest suspicion that you had seen my client, 



204 WrLDER'S H.iJVD 

Mr. Wylder, considering the tenor of your letters and con- 
versation. And I venture to say, Captain Lake, that Lord 
Chelford will be just as much surprised as I, when he hears 
it." 

" But he'll 710^ hear it ; /"won't tell him, and you shan't ; 
because I don't think it would be prudent of us — do you ? 
— to quarrel with Mark Wylder, and he does not wish 
our meeting known. It is nothing on earth to me ; on 
the contrary, it rather places me in an awkward position 
keeping other people's secrets." 

The attorney made one of his slight, gentlemanlike 
'bows, and threw back his head with a lofty and reserved 
look. 

" I don't know. Captain Lake, that I would -be quite 
justified in withholding the substance of Sir Julius Hock- 
ley's letter from Lord Chelford, consulted, as I have had 
the honor to be, by that nobleman. 1 shall, however, turn 
it over in my mind." 

" Don't the least mind me. In fact, I would rather 
tell it than not. And I can explain to Chelford why / 
could not mention the circumstance. Wylder, in fact, tied 
me down by a promise, and he'll be devilish angry with 
you ; but, it seems, you don't very much mind that." 

He knew that Mr. Larkin did very much mind it ; and 
the quick glance of the attorney could read nothing what- 
ever in the Captain's pallid face and downcast eyes, smil- 
ing on the points of his varnished boots. 

" Of course, you know, Captain Lake, in alluding to 
the possibility of my making any communication to Lord 
Chelford, I limit myself strictly to the letter of Sir Julius 
Hockley, and do not, by any means, my dear Captain 
Lake, include the conversation which has just occurred 
and the communication which you liave volunteered to 
make me." 



WYLDER'S HJLJVJJ. 205 

" Oh ! quite so," said the Captain, looking up sudden- 
ly, with a momentary glare, like a man newly-waked from 
a narcotic doze. 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

THE HUNT BALL. 

By this time your humble servant, the chronicler of 
these Gylingden annals, had taken his leave of magnificent 
old Brandon, and of its strangely interesting young mis- 
tress, and was carrying away with him, as he flew along 
the London rails, the broken imagery of that grand and 
shivered dream. He was destined, however, before very 
long, to revisit these scenes ; and in the meantime heard, 
in rude outline, the tenor of what was happening — the 
minute incidents and coloring of which were afterwards 
faithfully communicated. 

The Hunt Ball is the great annual event of Gylingden. 
The critical process of "coming out" is here consumma- 
ted by the young ladies of that town and vicinage. It is 
looked, back upon for one-half of the year, and forward 
to for the other. People date by it. The battle of Ink- 
erman was fought immediately before the Hunt Ball. It 
was so many weeks after the Hunt Ball that the Czar 
Nicholas died. Its solemn and universal importance in 
Gylingden and the country round, gave me some notion 
of what the feast of unleavened bread must have been to 
the Hebrews and Jerusalem. 

The connubial capabilities of Gylingden are positively 
wretched. When I knew it, there were but three single 
men, according even to the modest measure of Gylingden 



206 ■ WVLDERS H^jvn. 

Eousekeepirig, capable of supporting wives, and these 
were difficult to please, set a high price on themselves — 
looked the country round at long ranges, and were only 
wistfully and meekly glanced after by the frugal vestals 
of Gylingden, as they strutted round the corners, or 
smoked the pipe of apathy at tiie reading-room windows. 

Think, then, what it was, when Mr. Pummice, of Copal 
and Pummice, the splendid house-painters at Dollington, 
arrived with his artists and charwoman to give the As- 
sembly room its annual touching-up and bedizenmentr 
preparatory to the Hunt Ball. The Gylingden young 
ladies used to peep in, and from the lobby observe the 
wenches dry-rubbing and waxing the floor, and the great 
Mr. Pummice, with his myrmidons, in aprons and paper 
, caps, retouching the gilding. 

It was a tremendous crisis for honest Mrs. Page, the 
confectioner, over the way, who, in legal phrase, had 
" the carriage of the supper and refreshments, though 
largely assisted by Mr. Battersby, of Dollington. Dur- 
ing the few days' agony of preparation that immediately 
preceded this notable orgie, the good lady's countenance 
bespoke the inagnitude of her cares. Though the weath- 
er was usually cold, I don't think she ever was cool dur- 
ing that period — I am sure she never slept — I don't 
think she ate — and I am afraid her religious exercise 
were neglected. 

Equally distracting, emaciating, and godless, was the 
condition to which the mere advent of this festival reduced 
worthy Miss Williams, the dressmaker, who had more 
white muslin and young ladies on her hands than she and 
her choir of needlewomen knew what to do with. During 
this tremendous period Miss Williams hardly resembled 
herself — her eyes dilated, her lips were pale, and her 
brow corrugated with deep and inflexible lines of fear and 



WiTLDER'S HAJVD. 207 

perplexity. But somehow, generally things came pretty 
right in the end. One way or another, the gay belles 
and elderly spinsters, and fat village chaperons, were in- 
vested in suitable costume by the appointed hour, and in 
a few weeks Miss Williams' mind recovered its wonted 
tone, and her countenance its natural expression. 

The great night had now arrived. Gylingden was 
quite in an uproar. Rural families of eminence came in. 
Some in old fashioned coaches ; others, the wealthier^ 
more in London style. The stables of the " Brandon 
Arms," of the ."George Inn," of the " Silver Lion," even 
of the " White House," though a good way oif, and gen- 
erally every vacant standing for horses in or about the 
town were crowded ; and the places of entertainment 
were vocal with the talk of flunkies, patrician with pow- 
dered heads, and splendent in variegated liveries. 

The front of the Town Hall resounded with the ring 
of horse-hoofs, the crack of whips, the bawling of coach- 
men, the clank of carriage steps, and clang of coach 
doors. A promiscuous mob of the plebs and profanum 
vulgus of Gylingden beset the door, to see the ladies — 
the slim and the young in white muslins and artificial 
flowers, and their stout guardian angels, of maturer years, 
in satins and velvets, and jewels — some real, and some 
just as good, of paste. 

When the Crutchleighs, of Clay Manor, a good, old, 
formal family, were mounting the stairs in solemn proces- 
sion — they were always among the early arrivals — they 
heard a piano and a tenor performing in the supper-room. 

Now, Old Lady Chelford chose to patronise Mr. Page, 
the Dolliugton professor, and partly, I fancy, to show that 
she could turn things topsy-turvy in this town of Gyling- 
den, had made a point, with the rulers of the feast, that 
her client should sing half-a-dozen songs in the supper- 
room before dancing commenced. . 



208 • WrLDER'S HAJVD 

Mrs. Crutchleigh stayed her step upon the stairs ab- 
ruptly, and turned, with a look of fierce surprise upon 
her lean, white-headed lord, arresting thereby the upward 
march of Corfe Crutchleigh, Esq. the hope oT his house, 
who was pulling on his gloves, with his eldest spinster 
sister on his lank arm. 

" There appears to be a concert going on ; we came 
here to a ball. Had you not better enquire, Mr. Crutch- 
leigh ; it would seem we have made a mistake ? " 

Mrs. Crutchleigh was sensitive about the dignity of 
the family of Clay Manor ; and her cheeks flushed above 
the rouge, and her eyes flashed severely. 

" That's singing — particularly loud singing. Either 
we have mistaken the night, or somebody has taken upon 
him to upset all the arrangements. You will be good 
enough to enquire whether there will be dancing to- 
night ; I and Anastasia will remain in the cloak-room ; 
and we'll all leave if you please, Mr. Crutchleigh, if this 
goes on." 

The fact is, Mrs. Crutchleigh had got an inkling of 
this performance, and had affected to believe it impossible ; 
and, detesting old Lady Chelford for sundry slights and 
small impertinences, was resolved not to be put down by 
presumption in that quarter. 

Old Lady Chelford sat in an arm-chair in the supper- 
room, where a considerable audience was collected.. She 
had a splendid shawl or two about her, and a certain air 
of demi-toilette, which gave the Gylingden people to un- 
derstand that her ladyship did not look on this gala in the 
light of a real ball, but only as a sort of rustic imitation 
— curious, possibly amusing, and, like other rural sports, 
deserving of encouragement, for the sake of the people 
who made innocent holiday there. 

Mr. Page, the performer, was a plump young man, 



WVLDER'S HJlJVn. 209 

mth black whiskers, and his hair in oily ringlets, such as 
may be seen in the model wigs presented on smiling, wax- 
en dandies, in Mr. Rose's front window at Dollington. 
Ho bowed and smiied in the most unexceptionable of dress 
coats, and -drew off the whitest imaginable pair of kid 
gloves, when he sat down to the piano, subsiding in a sort 
of bow upon the music-stoolj, and striking those few, 
brisk and noisy chords with which such artists proclaim 
silence and reassure themselves. 

Stanley Lake, that eminent London swell, had at- 
tached himself as gentleman- in- waiting to Lady Chel- 
ford's household, and was perpetually gliding with little 
messages between her ladyship and the dapper vocalist of 
Dollington, who varied his programme and submitted to 
an occasional encore on the private order thus communi- 
cated. 

" I told you Chelford would be here," said Miss Bran- 
don to Rachel, in a low tone, glancing at the young peer. 

" I thought he had returned to Brighton. I fancied he 
might be — you know the Dulhamptons are at Brighton ; 
and Lady Constance, of courae, has a claim on his time 
and thoughts." 

Rachel smiled as she spoke, and was adjusting her bo- 
quet, as Dorcas made answer — 

" Lady Constance, my dear Radie ! That, you know, 
was never more than a mere whisper ; it was only Lady 
Chelford and the Marchioness who tallsed it over — they 
would have liked it very well. But Chelford won't be 
managed or scolded into anything of the kind ; and I as- 
sure you, dear Radie, there is not the least triith in that 
story about Lady Constance." 

Why should Dorcas be so earnest to convince her hand- 
some cousin that there was nothing in this rumor ? Ra- 
chel made no remark, and there was a little silence. 



210 WYLDER'S HAJVB. 

" I'm so glad I succeeded in bringing you here," said 
Dorcas ; " Chelford made such a point of it ; and he thinks 
you are losing your spirits among the great trees and shad- 
ows of Redman's Dell ; and he made it quite a little cous- 
inly duty that I should succeed." 

At this moment Mr. Page interposed with the energetic 
prelude of his concluding ditty. It was one of Tom Moore's 
melodies. 

Rachel leaned back, and seemed to enjoy it very much. 
But when it was over, I think she would have found it 
difficult to say what the song was about. 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 

THE BALL -EOOM. 

Rachel Lake was standing by the piano, turning over 
the leaves of the volume of " Moore's Melodies," from 
which the artist in black whiskers and white waistcoat had 
just entertained his noble patroness and his audience, when 
a low, pleasant voice near her said — 

" I was so glad to see that Dorcas had prevailed, and 
that you were here. We both agreed that you are too 
much a recluse in that Der Frieschutz Glen, and owe it to 
us all to appear now and then in this upper world." 

Miss Lake again looked down upon the page, and as she 
did so, Lord Chelford continued. 

" You are a worshipper of Tom Moore, Miss Lake ? " 

" An admirer, perhaps — certf^nly no worshipper. 
Yet, I can't say. Perhaps I do worship ; but if so, it is a 
worship strangely mixed with contempt." And she laugh- 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 211 

ed a little. " A kind of adoring which I fancy belongs 
properly to the lords of creation, and which we of the 
weaker sex have no right to practise." 

" Miss Lake is pleased to be ironical to-night," be .said, 
with a smile. 

" Am I ? I dare say. All women are. Irony is the 
weapon of cowardice, and cowardice the vice of weakness. 
Yet I think I was naturally bold and true. I hate cow- 
ardice and deception even in myself — I hate perfidy — 
I bate fraud." 

She tapped a little emphasis upon the floor with her 
white satin shoe, and her eyes flashed with an angry mean- 
ing among the crowd at the other end of the room, as if, 
following an object to whom in some way the statement 
applied. 

The strange bitterness of her tone, though it was low 
enough, and something wild, suflering, and revengeful in 
her look, did not escape Lord Chelford, and he followed 
unconsciously the direction of her glance ; but there was 
nothing there to guide him to a conclusion. 

" And yet. Miss Lake, we are all more or less cowards 
or deceivers — at least, to the extent of suppression. Who 
would speak the whole truth, or like to hear it — not I, I 
know." 

" Nor I," she said, quietly. 

" I like a little puzzle and mystery — they surround 
our future and our past ; and the present would be insipid, 
I think, without them. Now, I can't tell. Miss Lake, as 
you look on Tom Moore there, and I try to read your smile, 
whether you happen at this particular moment to adore or 
despise him." 

" Moore's is a daring morality — what do you think for 
instance, of these lines ? " she said, touching the verse 
•with her bouquet. 



212 WyZDER'S HAJVD. 

Lord Chelford read — 

I ask not, I know not, if guilt's in thy heart : 
I but know that I love thee, whatever thou art. 

He laughed. 

" Very passionate, but hardly respectable. I once 
knew," he continued a little more gravely, " a marriage 
made upon that principle, and not very audaciously either, 
which turned out very unhappily." 

" So I should conjecture," she said, rising from her 
chair, rather drearily and abstractedly," and there is good 
old Lady Sarah. I must go and ask her how she does." 
She paused for a moment, holding her bouquet drooping 
towards the floor, and looking with her clouded eyes down 
— down — through it ; and then she looked up suddenly, 
with an odd, fierce smile, and she said, bitterly enough — 
" And yet, if I were a man, and capable of loving, I 
could love no other way ; because I suppose love to be a 
madness, and the sublimest and the most despicable of 
states. And I admire Moore for that flash of the fallen 
angelic — it is the sentiment of a hero and a madman — 
too base and too noble for this cool, wise world." 

She was already moving away, nebulous in hovering folds 
of snowy muslin. And she floated down like a cloud upon 
the ottoman, beside old Lady Sarah, and smiled, and leaned 
towards her, and talked in her sweet, low, distinct accents. 
And Lord Chelford followed her, with a sad sort of smile, 
admiring her greatly. 

Of course, it was not every man's privilege to dance 
with the splendid Lady of Brandon. Her kinsman, Lord 
Chelford, did so ; and now handsome Sir Harry Bracton, 
six feet high, so broad-shouldered and slim-waisted, his 
fine but not very wise face irradiated with indefatigable 
smiles, stood and conversed with her, with that jaunty 



WYLDER'S HjIjVJO. 213 

swagger of his — boisterous, rollicking, beaming -with im- 
measurable self-complacency. 

Stanley Lake left old Lady Chelford's side, and glided 
to that of Dorcas Brandon. 

" Will you dance this set — are you engaged, Miss 
Brandon ? " he said, in low eager tones. 

" Yes, to both questions," answered she, with the faint- 
est gleam of the conventional smile, and looking now 
gravely again at her bouquet. 

" Well the next, possibly, I hope ? " 

" I never do that," said the apathetic beauty, serenely. 

Stanley looked as if he did not quite understand, and 
there was a little silence. 

" I mean, I never engage myself beyond one dance. I 
hope you do not think it rude — but I never do." 

" Miss Brandon can make what laws she pleases for all 
here, and for some of us everywhere," he replied, with a 
mortified smile and a bow. 

At that moment Sir Harry Bracton arrived to claim 
her, and Miss Kybes — elderly and sentimental, and in no 
great request — timidly said, in a gobbling, confidential 
whisper — 

" What a handsome couple they do make ! Does not 
it quite realise your conception. Captain Lake, of young 
Lochinvar, you know, and his fair Helen — 

So stately his form, and so lovely her face — 

" It does really ; and that " one cup of wine" — you 
recollect — which the hero drank ; and, I dare say, it 
made young Lochinvar a little noisy and swaggering, when 
he proposed " treading the measure" — is «not that the 
phrase ? Yes, really ; it is a very pretty poetical paral- 
lel." 

When Miss Brandon returned, Lake was unfortunately 



214 WYLDER'S HAJVD 

on duty beside old Lady Chelford, whom it was important 
to propitiate, and who was in the middle of a story — an 
extraordinary favor from her ladyship ; and he had the 
vexation to see Lord, Chelford palpably engaging Miss 
Brandon for the next dance. 

When she returned, she was a little tired, and doubtful 
whether she would dance any more — certainly not the 
next dance. So he resolved to lie in wait, and anticipate 
any new suitor who might appear. 

His eyes, however, happened to wander, in an unlucky 
moment, to old Lady Chelford, who instantaneously sig- 
nalled to him with her fan. 

" — the woman," mentally exclaimed Lake, telegraph- 
ing, at the same time, with a bow and a smile of deferential 
alacrity, and making his way through the crowd as deftly 
as he could ; '' what a — fool I was to go near her." 

So the Captain had to assist at the dowager lady's sup- 
per ; and not only so, but in some sort at her digestion 
also, which she chose should take place for some ten min- 
utes in the chair that she occupied at the supper table. 

When he escaped, Miss Brandon was engaged once 
more — and to Sir Harry Bracton, for a second time. 

And moreover, when he again essayed his suit, the 
young lady had peremptorily made up her mind to dance 
no more that night. 

How can Dorcas endure that man," thought Kachel, as 
she saw Sir Harry lead her to her seat, after a second 
dance. " Handsome, but so noisy and foolish, and wicked ; 
and is not he vulgar, too ? " 

But Dorcas was not demonstrative. Her likings and 
dislikings were always more or less enigmatical. Still 
Bachel Lake fancied that she detected signs, not only of 
tolerance, but of positive liking, in her haughty cousin's 



WYLDER'S HjUVD. 215 

demeanor, and wondered, after all, whether Dorcas was 
beginning to like Sir Harry Bracton. 

Twice, for a moment, their eyes met ; but only for a 
moment. Rachel knew that a tragedy might be — at that 
instant, and under the influence of that very spectacle — 
gathering its thunders silently in another part of the room, 
where she saw Stanley's pale, peculiar face ; and although 
he appeared in nowise occupied by what was passing be- 
tween Dorcas Brandon and Sir Harry, she well knew that 
nothing of it escaped him. 

The sight of that pale face was a cold pang at her heart 
— a face prophetic of evil, at sight of which the dark 
curtain which hid futurity seemed to sway and tremble, as 
if a hand from behind was on the point of drawing it. 
Rachel sighed profoundly, and her eyes looked sadly 
through her bouquet on the floor. 

" I'm very glad you come, Radie," said a sweet voice, 
which somehow made her shiver, close to her ear. " This 
kind of thing will do you good ; and you really wanted a 
little fillip. Shall I take you to the supper-room ? " 

" No, Stanley, thank you ; I prefer remaining." 

" Have you observed how Dorcas has treated me this 
evening ? " 

"No, Stanley; nothing unusual is there ? " answered 
Rachel, glancing uneasily round, lest they should be over- 
heard. 

" Well, I think she has been more than usually repul- 
sive — quite marked ; I almost fancy these Grylingden 
people, dull as they are, must observe it. I have a notion 
I shan't trouble Gylingden or her after to-morrow." 

Rachel glanced quickly at him. He was deadly pale ; 
and he returned her glance for a second wildly, and then 
dropped his eyes to the ground. 

"I told you" he resumed again, after a short pause, 



216 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

and commencing with a gentle laugh, that she liked that 
fellow, Bracton." 

" You did say something, I think, of that, some time 
since," said Rachel ; "but really " — 

" But really, Radie, dear, you can't need any confir- 
mation more than this evening affords. We both know Dor- 
cas very well ; she is not like other girls. She does not 
encourage fellows as they do ; but if she did not like Brac- 
ton very well, indeed, she would send him about his 
business. , She has danced with him twice, on the contrary, 
and has suffered his agreeable conversation all the even- 
ing ; and that from Dorcas Brandon means, you know, 
everything." 

" I don't know that it means anything. I don't see 
why it should ; but I am very certain, Stanley, that if 
this supposed preference leads you to abandon your wild 
pursuit of Dorcas, it will prevent more ruin than, perhaps? 
either of us anticipates ; and, Stanley," she added in a 
whisper, looking full in his eyes, which were raised for a 
moment to hers, " it is hardly credible that you dare still 
to persist in so desperate and cruel a project." 

" Thank you," said Stanley quietly, but the yellow 
lights glared fiercely from their sockets, and were then 
lowered instantly to the floor. 

" She has been very rude to me to-night ; and you have 
not been, or tried to be, of any earthly use to me ; and I 
will take a decided course. I perfectly know what I'm 
about. You don't seem to be dancing, /have not either ; 
we have both got something more serious, I fancy, to think 
of" 

And Stanley Lake glided slowly away, and was lost in 
the crowd. He went into the supper-room, and had a 
glass of seltzer water and sherry. He loitered at the 
table. His ruminations were dreary, I fancy, and his 



WYifjiER's ^4jyp. 217 

temper by no means pleasant ; and it needed a good deal 
of that artificial command of countenance which he culti- 
vated, to prevent his betraying something of .the latter, 
when Sir Harry Bracton, talking loud and volubly as usual, 
swaggered into the supper-room, with Dorcas Brandon on 
bis arm. 



CHAPTER XXXVn. 



THE SUPPBK-EOOM. 



I'X was rather trying, in this state of things, to receive 
from the triumphant baironet, with only a parenthetical 
" Dear Lake, I beg your pardon," a rough knock on the 
elbow of the hand that held his glass, and to be then sum- 
marily hustled out of his place. It was no mitigation of 
the rudeness, in Lake's estimate, that Sir Harry was so 
engrossed and elated as to seem hardly conscious of any 
existence but Miss Brandon's^ and his own. 

Lake was subject to transient paroxysms of exaspera- 
tion; tut even in these he knew how to command himself 
pretty well before witnesses. His smile grew a little 
stranger, and his face a degree whiter, as he set down his 
glass, quietly glided a little away, and brushed off with 
his handkerchief the aspersion which his coat had suffer- 
ed. 

In a few minutes more Miss Brandon had left the 
supper-room leaning upon Lord Chelford'sarmj and Sir 
Harry remained, with a glass of pink champagne, such as 
young fellows drink with a faith and comfort so wonderful, 
at balls and fetes champetres. 
10 



218 WVLDER'S HAJVJ) 

Now, Sir Harry's rudeness to Lake had not been, I am 
ajfraid, altogether accidental. The baronet was sudden and 
vehement in his affairs of the heart; but curable, on short 
absences, and easily transferable. He had been vehemently 
enamored of the heiress of Brandon a year ago and 
more ; but during an absence Mark Wylder's suit grew up 
and prospered, and Sir Harry Bracton acquiesced ; and, 
to say truth, the matter troubled his manly breast but 
little. 

He had hardly expected to see her here in this rollick- 
ing rustic gathering. She was, he thought, even more 
lovely than he remembered her. Wylder had gone off' 
the scene, as Mr. Carlyle says, into infinite space. Who 
could tell exactly the cause of his dismissal, and why the 
young lady had asserted her capricious resolve to be 
free? 

There were pleasant theories adaptable to the circum- 
stances ; and Sir Harry cherished an agreeable opinion of 
himself; and so the old flame blazed up wildly, and the 
young gentleman was more in love then, and for some 
weeks after the ball, than perhaps he had ever been be- 
fore. 

Now some men — and Sir Harry was one of them — 
are churlish and ferocious over their loves, as certain 
brutes are over their victuals. In one of those tender 
paroxysms, when in the presence of his dulcinea, the. 
young Baronet was always hot, short, and saucy, with his 
own sex ; and when his jealousy was ever so little touch- 
ed, positively impertinent. 

He perceived what other people did not, that Miss Bran- 
don's eye once on that evening rested on Captain Lake 
with a peculiar expression of interest. This look was but 
once and momentary ; but the young gentleman resented 
it, brooded over it, every now and then, when the palp 



WYLDER'S HAND. 219 

face of the Captain crossed his eye; and two or three 
times, when the beautiful young lady's attention seemed 
to wander from his agreeable conversation, he thought he 
detected her haughty eye moving in the same direction. 
So he looked that way too ; and although he could see 
nothing noticeable in Stanley's demeanor, he could have 
felt it in his heart to box his ears. 

Therefore, I don't think he was quite so careful as he 
might have been to spare Lake that jolt upon the elbow, 
which coming from a rival in a moment of public triumph 
was not altogether easy to bear like a Christian. 

" Some grapes, please," said Lake, to the young lady 
behind the table. 

" Oh, uncle ! Is that you. Lake ? — beg pardon ; but 
you are so like my poor dear uncle, Langton. I wish you'd 
let me adopt you for an uncle. He was such a pretty fel- 
low, with his fat white cheeks and long nose, and he look- 
ed half asleep. Do, pray, Uncle Lake ; I should like it 
so," and the Baronet, who was, what* some people would 
term, perhaps, vulgar, winked over his glass at the bloom- 
ing confectioner, who tittered over her shoulder at the 
handsome Baronet's charming banter. 

The girl having turned away to titter, forgot Lake's 
grapes ; so he helped himself, and leaning against the ta- 
ble, looked superciliously upon Sir Harry, who was not 
to be deterred by the drowsy gaze of contempt with which 
the Captain retorted his angry " chaff." 

" Poor uncle died of love, or chicken-pock, or some- 
thing, at forty. You're not ailing, Nunkie, are you ? 
You do look wofuUy sick, though ; too bad to lose a sec- 
ond uncle at the same early age. You're near forty, eh, 
Nunkie ? and such a pretty fellow ! You'll take care of • 
me in your will, Nunkie, won't you ? Come, what will 
you leave me ; not much tin, I'm afraid." 



220' WVLBER'S HAMD. 

" No, not much tin," answered Lake ; " but I'll leave 
you what jou want more, my sense and decency, with a 
request that you will use them for my sake." 

" You're a devilish witty fellow, Lake; take care your 
wit don't get you into trouble," said the Baronet, chuck- 
ling and growing angrier, for he saw the Hebe laughing ; 
and not being a ready man, though given to banter, he 
sometimes descended to menace in his jocularity. 

" I was just thinking your dullness might do the same 
for you," drawled Lake. 

" When do you mean to pay Dawlings that bet on the 
Derby?" demanded Sir Harry, his face very red, and 
only the ghost of his smile grinning there. " I think 
you'd better ; of course it is quite easy." 

The JBaronet was smiling bis best, with a very red face 
and that unpleasant uncertainty in his contracted eyes 
which accompanies suppressed rage. 

" As easy as that," said Lake, chucking a little bunch 
of grapes full into Sir Harry Bracton's handsome face. 

Lake recoiled a step ; his face blanched as white as the 
cloth ; his left arm lifted, and his right hand grasping tbe 
haft of a table-knife. 

There was just a second in which the athletic Baronet 
stood, as it were breathless and incredulous, and then his 
Herculean fist whirled in the air with a most unseemly 
oath : the girl screamed, and a crash of tglass and crock- 
ery, whisked away by their coats, resounded on the 
ground. 

A chair between Lake and Sir Harry impeded the Bar- 
onet's stride, and his uplifted arm was caught by a gen- 
tleman in moustache, who held so fast that there was no 
chance of shaking it loose. 

"The people — hang it! — you'll have all the people 
about you. Quiet — quicit — can't you, I say. Settle it 
quietly. Here I am." 



WYLDER'S HAJVB. 221 

" Well, let me go ; that will do," said he, glowering 
furiously at Lake, who confronted him, ia the same atti- 
tude, a couple of yards away. " You'll hear," and he 
turned away. 

" I am at the ' Brandon Arms ' till to-morrow," said 
Late, very quietly, to the gentleman" in moustaches, who 
bowed slightly, and walked out of the room with Sir Har- 
ry. • 

Lake poured out some sherry in a tumbler, and drank 
it off. He was a little bit stunned, I think, in his new 
situation. 

Except for the waiters, and the actors in it, it so hap- 
pened that the supper-room was empty during this sudden 
fracas. Lake stared at the frightened girl, in his fierce 
abstraction. Then, with his wild gaze, he followed the 
L"ne of his adversary's retreat, and shook his ears slightly 
like a man at whose hair a wasp has buzzed. 

" Thank you,'' said he to the maid, suddenly recollect- 
ing himself, with a sort of smile ; " That will do. What 
Confounded nonsense ! He'll be quite eool again in five 
minutes. Never mind." 

And Lake pulled on his white glove, glancing down the 
file of silent waiters — -some looking frightened, and some 
reserved — in white ties and waistcoats, and he glided out 
of the room — his mind somewhere else — like a somnam- 
bulist. 



CHAPTER XXXVni. 

AFTER THE BALL. 

« 

Lake glided from the feast -with a sense of a tremen- 
dous liability upon him. There was no retreat. The 
morning — yes, the morning — what then ? Should he 
live to see the evening? Sir Harry Bracton was the 
crack shot of Swivel's gallery. There he was, talking to 
old Lady Chelford. Very well ; and there was that 
fellow with the twisted moustache — plainly an oflBcer and 
a gentleman — twisting the end of one of them, and thinking 
profoundly, evidently considering his coming diplomacy 
with Lake's " friend." Aye, by the bye, and Lake's eye 
wandered in bewilderment among village dons and elderly 
country gentlemen, in search of that inestimable treasure. 

"Monstrous hot, sir — hey? ha, ha, by Jove !" said 
Major Jackson, who had just returned from the supper- 
room, where he had heard several narratives of the oc- 
currence. Don't think I was so hot since the ball at 
Government House, by Jove, sir, in 1828 — awful sum- 
mer that ! " 

The Major was jerking his handkerchief under his 
florid nose and chin, by way of ventilation ; and eyeing 
the young man shrewdly the while, to read what he might 
of the story in his face. 

" Been in Calcutta, Captain Lake ? " 

"No; very hot, indeed. Could I say just a word with 
you — this way a little. So glad I met you." And 
they edged into a little nook of the lobby, where they 



WVLDER'S HAJ\rD. 223 

had a few minutes' confidential talk, during which the 
Major looked grave and consequential, and carried his 
head high, nodding now and then with military decision. 

Major Jackson whispered an abrupt word or two in his 
ear, and threw back his head, eyeing Lake with grave 
and sly defiance. Then came another whisper and a 
wink ; and the Major shook his hand, briefly but hard, 
and the gentlemen parted. 

Lake strolled into the ball-room, and on to the upper 
end, where the " best " people are and suddenly he was 
in Miss Brandon's presence. 

" I've been very presumptuous, I fear to-night, Miss 
Brandon," he said, in his peculiar low tones. " I've 
been very importunate — I prized the honor I sought so 
very much, I forgot how little I deserved it. And I do 
not think it likely you'll see me for a good while — pos- 
sibly for a very long time. I've therefore ventured to 
come, merely to say good-bye — only that, just — good- 
bye. And — and to beg that flower " — and he plucked 
it resolutely from her bouquet — "which I will keep 
while I live. Good-bye, Miss Brandon." 

And Captain Stanley Lake, that pale apparition was 
gone. 

I do not know at all how Miss Brandon felt at this in- 
stant ; for I never could quite understand that strange 
lady. But I believe she looked a little pale as she grave- 
ly adjusted the flowers so audaciously violated by the 
touch of the cool young gentleman. 

I can't say whether Miss Brandon deigned to follow 
him with her dark, dreamy gaze. I rather think not. 
And three minutes afterwards he had left the Town Hall. 

The Brandon party did not stay very late. And they 
dropped Rachel at her little dwelling. How very silent 
Dorcas was, thought Rachel, as they drove from Gyling- 



224 WVLDER'S HAJVS 

den. Perhaps' others were thinking the same of Raehcl. 

Next morning, at half-past seven o'clock, a dozen or so 
of i'ustrcs, under command of Major Jackson, arrived at 
the back entrance of Brandon Hall, bearing Stainley Lake 
upon a shutter, with glassy eyes, that did not seem to see, 
sunken face, and a very blue tinge about his mouth. 

The Major fussed into the house, and saw and tailked 
with Larcom, who was solemn and bland upon the sub- 
ject, and went out, first to make personal inspection of 
the Capta:in, who seemed to bim to he dying. He was 
shot somewhere in the shoulder or breast — they could 
not see exalctly where, nor disturb him as he lay. A 
good deal of blood had flowed from him, upon the arm 
and side of one of the men who supported his head. 

Lake said nothing — he only whispered rather indis- 
tinctly one word, " Water " — and was not able to lift his 
head when it came ; and when they poured it into and 
over his lips, he sighed and closed his eyes. 

" It is not a bad sign, bleeding so freely, but he looks 
devilish shaky, you see. I've seen lots of our fellows 
hit, you know, and.l don't like his looks — poor fellow. 
You'd better see Lord Chelford this minute. He could 
not stand being brought all the way to the town. I'll 
run down and send up the doctor, and he'll take him on 
if he can bear it." 

The Majoi: surprised Doctor Buddie shaving. He 
popped in unceremoniously. The fat little doctor received 
him in drawers and a very tight web worsted shirt, 
standing by the window, at which dangled a small looking- 
glass. 

" By George, sir, they've been at mischief/' burst forth 
the Major ; and the Doctor, razor in hand, listened with 
wide open eyes and half his face lathered, to the story. 
Before it was over the DoCtol- shaved the unshorn side, 



WYLDER'S HJJVD. 225 

and (the Major still in the room) completed his toilet in 
hot haste. 

Honest Major Jackson was very uncomfortable. Of 
course, Buddie could not give any sort of opinion upon a 
case which he had not seen ; but it described uglily, and 
the Major consulted in broken hints, with an uneasy wink 
or two, about a flight to Boulogne. 

" Well, it will be no harm to be ready ; but take no 
step till I come back," said the Doctor, who had stuffed a 
great roll of lint and plaster, and some other medicinals 
into one pocket, and his case of instruments, forceps, 
probe, scissors, and all the other steel and silver horrors, 
into the other ; so he strutted forth in his great coat un- 
naturally broad about the hips; and the Major, "devil- 
ish uncomfortable," accompanied him at a smart pace to 
the great gate of Brandon. 

Lord Chelford being an early man, was, notwithstand- 
ing the ball of the preceding night, dressing, when St. 
Ange, his Swiss servant, knocked at his door with a doz- 
en pocket handkerchiefs, a bottle of eau-de-cologne, and 
some other properties of his metier. 

St. Ange could not wait until he had laid them down, 
but broke out with — 

Oh, mi Lor ! — qu'est-il arrive ? — le pauvfe capi- 
taine ! il est tue — il se meurt — he dies — d'un coup de 
pistolet. He comes de se battre from beating himself in 
duel — il a ^te atteint dans la poitrine — le pauvre gen- 
tilhomme ! of a blow of the pistol." 

And so on, the young nobleman gathering the facts as 
best he might. 

" Is Larcom there ? " 

" In the gallery, mi Lor." 

" Ask him to come in." 

So Monsieur Larcom entered, and bowed ominously. 
10* 



226 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" You've seen him Larcom. Is he very much hurt ? " 

" He appears my Lord to me, I regret to say, almost a- 
dying like." 

" Very weak ? Does he speak to you ? " 

" Not a word, my Lord. Since he got a little water 
he's quite quiet." 

" Poor fellow. Where have you put him ? " 

" In the housekeeper's lobby, my Lord. 1 rather think 
he's-a-dying. He look's uncommon bad, and I and Mrs, 
Esterbroke, the housekeeper, my Lord thought you would 
not like he should die out of doors." 

" Has she got your mistress's directions ? " 

" Miss Brandon is not called up, my Lord, and Mrs. 
Esterbroke is unwillin' to halarm her ; so she thought it 
better I should come for orders to your lordship ; which 
she thinks also the poor young gentleman is certainly a- 
dying." 

" Is there any vacant bedroom near where you have 
placed him? What does Mrs. the housekeeper, say?" 

" She thinks, my Lord, the room hopposit, where Mr. 
Sledd, the architeck, slep, when 'ere, would answer very 
nice. It is roomy and hairy, and no steps. Major Jack- 
son, who is gone to the town to fetch the doctor, my Lord, 
says Mr. Lake won't a-bear carriage ; and so the room on 
the level, my Lord, would, perhaps, be more convenient." 

" Certainly ; tell her so. I will speak to Miss Bran- 
don when she comes down. How soon will the doctor be 
here?" 

" From a quarter to half an hour, my Lord." 

" Then tell the housekeeper to arrange as she proposes, 
and don't remove his clothes until the doctor comes. 
Everyone must assist. I know, St. Ange, you'll like to 
assist." 

So Larcom withdrew ceremoniously and Lord Chel- 



WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 227 

ford hastened his toilet, and was down stairs, and in the 
room assigned by the housekeeper to the ill-starred Cap- 
tain Lake, before Doctor Buddie had arrived. 

It had already the dismal character of a sick chamber. 
Its light was darkened ; its talk was in whispers ; and its 
to-inga and fro-ings on tip-toe. An obsolete chambermaid 
had been already installed as nurse. Little Mrs. Ester- 
broke, the housekeeper, was fussing hither and thither 
about the room noiselessly. 

While the wounded Captain lay on the bed, with his 
clothes on, and the coverlet over him, and that clay- 
colored apathetic face, with closed eyes, upon the pillow, 
without sigh or motion, not a whispered word escaped him ; 
but his brain was appalled, and his heart died within him 
in the unspeakable horror of death. 

Lord Chelford, too, having looked on Lake with silent, 
but awful misgivings, longed for the arrival of the Doctor ; 
and was listening and silent when Buddie's short step and 
short respiration were heard in the passage. So Larcom 
came to the door to announce the Doctor in a whisper, 
and Buddie fussed into the room, and made his bow to 
Lord Chelford, and his brief compliments and condolen- 
ces. 

" Not asleep ? " he enquired, standing by the bed. 

The Captain's lips moved a disclaimer, I suppose, but 
no sound came. 

So the Doctor threw open the window-shutters, and 
clipped Stanley Lake's exquisite coat ruthlessly through 
with his scissors, and having cleared the room of all use- 
less hands, he made his examination. 

It was a long visit. Buddie in the hall afterwards de- 
clined breakfast — he had a board to attend. He told 
Lord Chelford that the case was " a very nasty one." 

In fact, the chances were against the Captain, and he, 



228 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

Buddie, would wish a consultation with a London surgeon 

— whoever Lord Chelford had most confidence in — Sir 
Francis Seddley, he thought, would be very desirable — 
but, of course, it was for the family to decide. If the 
messenger caught the quarter to eleven up train at Dol- 
lington, he would be in London at six, and could return 
with the Doctor by the down mail train, and so reach 
Dollington at ten minutes past four next morning, which 
would answer, as he would not operate sooner. 

As the Doctor toddled towards Gylingden, with sympa- 
thetic Major Jackson by his side, before they entered the 
town they were passed by one of the Brandon men riding 
at a hard canter for Dollington. 

The ladies that morning had tea in their rooms. It 
was near twelve o'clock when Lord Chelford saw Miss 
Brandon. She was in the conservatory among her flow- 
ers, and on seeing him stepped into the drawing-room. 

" I hope, Dorcas, you are not angry with me. I've 
been, I'm afraid, very impertinent ; but I was called on 
to decide for you, in your absence, and they all thought 
poor Lake could not be moved on to Gylingden without 
danger." 

" You did quite rightly, Chelford, and I thank you," 
said Miss Brandon, coldly ; and she seated herself, and 
continued — 

" Pray, what does the Doctor really say ? " 

" He speaks very seriously." 

Miss Brandon looked down, and then, with a pale gaze, 
suddenly in Chelford's face — 

" He thinks he may die ? " said she. 

" Yes," said Lord Chelford, in a very low tone, return- 
ing her gaze solemnly. 

" And nobody to advise but that village doctor, Buddie 

— that's hardly creditable, I think." 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 229 

" Pardon me. At his suggestion I have sent for Sir 
Francis Seddley, from town, and I hope he may arrive 
early to-morrow morning." 

" Why, Stanley Lake may die to-day." 

" He does not apprehend that. But it is necessary to 
remove the bullet, and the operation will be critical, and 
it is for that specially that Sir Francis is coming down." 

" It is to take place to-morrow, and he'll die in that 
operation. You know he'll die," said Dorcas, pale and 
fierce. 

" I assure you, Dofcas, I have been perfectly frank. 
He looks upon poor Lake as in very great danger — but 
that is all." 

" What brutes you men are ! " said Dorcas, with a 
wild scorn in her look and accent, and her cheeks flushed 
with passion. " You knew quite well last night there 
was to be this wicked duel in the morning — and you — 
a magistrate — a lord lieutenant — what are you ? — you 
connived at this bloody conspiracy — and he — your own 
cousin, Chelford — your cousin!"' 

Chelford looked at her very much amazed. 

" Yes ; you are worse than Sir Harry Bracton — for 
you're no fool; and worse than that wicked old man. 
Major Jackson — who shall never enter these doors again 
— for he was employed — trusted in their brutal plans ; 
but you had no excuse and every opportunity — and you 
have allowed your cousin Stanley to be murdered." 

" You do me great injustice, Dorcas. I did not know, 
or even suspect that a hostile meeting between poor Lake 
and Bracton was thought of. I merely heard that there 
had been some trifling altercation ; and when, intending to 
make peace between them, I alluded to it, just before we 
left, Bracton said it was really nothing — quite blown 
over — and that he could not recollect what either had 



230 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

said. I was entirely deceived. They think it fair, you 
know, to dupe other people in such affairs ; and I will also 
say," he continued, a little haughtily, "that you might 
have spared your censure until at least you had heard 
what I had to say." 

" I do believe you, Chelford; you are not vexed with 
me. Won't you shake hands ? " 

He took her hand -with a smile. 

" And now," said she, " Chelford, ought not we to send 
for poor Rachel : her only brother ! Is not it sad ? " 

" Certainly ; shall I ask my mother, or will you 
write ? " 

" I will write," she said. 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 

IN WHICH MISS RACHEL LAKE COMES TO BRANDON, AND 
DOCTOR BUDDLE CALLS AGAIN. 

In about an hour afterwards, Rachel Lake arrived in 
the carriage which had been despatched for her with Dor- 
cas's note. Dorcas met her at the door, and they kissed 
silently. 

" How is he, Dorcas ? " 

" Very ill, dear, I'm afraid — sit down, darling." 

Rachel was relieved, for in her panic she almost feared 
to ask if he were living. 

" Oh ! Dorcas, darling, he'll die ; I know it. Oh ! 
merciful Heaven ! how tremendous." 

" You will not be so frightened in a little time. You 
have only just heard it, Rachel dearest, and you are start- 
led. I was so myself." 



WYLDER'S HAjYD. £31 

" I'd like to see him, Dorcas." 

"■ Sit here a little and rest, dear. The Doctor will 
make his visit immediately, and then we can ask him. 
He's a good-natured creature — poor old Buddie — and I 
am certain if it can safely be, he won't prevent it." 

" Where is he, darling — where is Stanley? " 

So Dorcas described as well as she could. 

" Oh, poor Stanley. Oh, Stanley — poor Stanley," 
gasped Rachel, with white lips. " You have no idea, 
Dorcas — no one can — how terrific it is. Oh, poor Stan- 
ley — poor Stanley." 

Drink this water, darling ; you must not be so excited." 

" Dorcas, say what the Doctor may, see him I must." 

" There is time to think of that, darling." 

" Has he .spoken to any one ? " 

" Very little, I believe. He whispers a few words now 
and then — that is all." 

" Did he wish to see no one ? " 

" No one, dear." 

" Not poor "William Wylder ? " 

" No, dear. I don't suppose he cares more for a cler- 
gyman than for any other man ; none of his family ever 
did, when they came to lie on a bed of sickness, or of 
death either." 

" No, no," said Rachel, wildly; " I did not mean to 
pray. I was not thinking of that ; but William Wylder 
was different ; and he did not mention me either ? " 

Dorcas shook her head. 

" Please, Miss Brandon, the Doctor's down stairs with 
Captain Lake," said the maid, opening the door. 

" Is Lord Chelford with him? " 

" Yes, miss, please." 

" Then tell him I will be so obliged if he will come 
here for a moment, when the Doctor is gone ; and ask the 
Doctor now, from me, how he thinks Captain Lake." 



232 WYLDER'S HAJVD 

In a little while the maid returned. Captain Lake was 
not so low, and rather better than this morning, the Doc- 
tor said ; and Rachel raised her eyes, and whispered an 
agitated thanksgiving. 

" Was Lord Chelford coming ? " 

' ' His lordship had left the room when she returned 
and Mr. Larcom said he was with Lawyer Larkin in the 
library." 

" Mr. Larkin can Wait. Tell Lord Chelford I wish very 
much to see him here." 

So away went the maid again. A message in that 
great house was a journey ; and there was a little space 
before they heard a knock at the door of Dorcas's pretty 
room, and Lord Chelford, duly invited, came in. 

Lord Chelford was surprised to see Rachel, and held her 
hand, while he congratulated her on the more favorable opin- 
ion of the physician this afternoon ; and then he gave 
them, as exactly as he could, all the lights, emitted by Dr^ 
Buddie, and endeavored to give his narrative as cheerful 
and confident an air as he could. 

Then, at length, he reccollected that Mr. Larkin was 
waiting in the study. 

I quite forgot Mr. Larkin," said he; " I left him in 
the library, and I am so very glad we have had a pleas- 
anter report upon poor Lake this evening ; and I am sure 
we shall all feel more comfortable on seeing Sir Francis 
Seddley. He is such an admirable surgeon ; and I feel 
sure he'll strike out something for our poor patient." 

So with a kind smile he left the room. 

Then there was a long pause. 

" Does he really think that Stanley will recover? " said 
Rachel. 

" I don't know ; I suppose he hopes it. I don't know, 
Rachel, what to think of any one or anything. Have you 
any idea what they quarreled about?" 



WTLDER'S SJJVD. 233 

" None in the world. It wa3 that odious Sir Harry 
Bracton — was not it ? " 

"Why so odious, Rachel? How can you tell which 
was in the wrong ? I only know he seems to be a better 
marksman than your poor brother." 

Rachel looked a:t her with something 6f haughty and 
surprised displeasure, but said nothing. 

" You look at me, Radie, as if I were a monster' — or 
monstress, I should say — wbereas I am only a Brandon. 
Don't you remember how our great ancestor, who fought 
for the House of York, changed suddenly to Lancaster, 
and how Sir Richard left the King and took part with 
Cromwell, not for any particular advantage, I believe, or 
for any particular reason even, but for wickedness and 
wounded pride, perhaps." 

" I don't quite see your meaning, Dorcas. I can't un- 
derstand how your pride has been hurt ; but if Stanley 
had any, I can well imagine what torture it must have en- 
dured ; wretched, wicked, punished fool ! " 

" You suspect what they fought about, Radie ? " 

Rachel made no answer. 

" You do, Radie, and why do you dissemble with me? " 

" I don't dissemble ; I don't care to speak ; but if you 
will have me say so, 1 do suspect — ' 1 think it must have 
originated in jealousy of you." 

" You look, Radie, as if you thought I hid managed it 
— whereas I really did not care." 

" I do not understand you, Dorcas ; but you appear to 
me very cruel, and you smile, as I say so." 

" I smile, because I sometimes think so niyaelf." 

With a fixed and wrathful stare Rachel returned the 
enigmatioal gaze of her beautiful cousin. 

"If Stanley dies, Dorcas, Sir Harry Bracton shall 
hear of it. I'll lose my life, but he shall pay the fotfeit 
of his crime." 



234 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

So saying, Eacliel left the room, and gliding through 
passages, and down stairs, she knocked at Stanley's door. 
The old woman opened it. 

" Ah, Dorothy ! I'm so glad to see you here ; " and 
she put a present into her hard, crumpled hand. 

So, noiselessly, Rachel Lake, without more parley, step- 
ped into the room, and closed the door. She was alone 
with Stanley. 

The room was not so dark that she could not see dis- 
tinctly enough. 

There lay her brother, such as he was — still her broth- 
er, on the bleak, nuetral ground between life and death. 
He did not move, but his strange eyes gazed cold and ear- 
nest from their deep sockets upon her face in awful si- 
lence. Perhaps he thought he saw a phantom. 

" Are you better, dear ? " whispered Rachel. 

His lips stirred and his throat, but he did not speak 
until a second effort brought utterance, and he murmured, 

"Is that you. Radio?" 

"Yes, dear. Are you better ? " 

" No. I'm shot. I shall die to-night. Is it night 
yet?" 

" Don't despair, Stanley, dear. The great London doc- 
tor. Sir Francis Seddley, will be with you early in the 
morning, and Chelford has great confidence in him. I'm 
sure he will relieve you," 

" This is Brandon ? " murmured Lake. 

" Yes, dear." 

She thought he was going to say more, but he remain- 
ed silent, and she recollected that he ought not to speak, 
and also that she had that to say which must be said. 

" Oh, Stanley ! you say you think you are dying. 
Won't you send for William Wylder and Chelford, and 
tell all you know of Mark ? " 



WYLDER'S HAjXD. 235 

She saw he was about to say something, and she leaned 
her head near his lips, and she heard him whisper, — 

" It won't serve Mark." 

"I'm thinking of you, Stanley — I'm thinking of 
you." 

To which he said either " Yes " or " So." She could 
not distinguish. ' 

" I view it nd4v-iquite differently. You said, you know, 
in the park, you would tell Chelford; and I resisted, I 
believe ; but I don't now. I had ratlier you did. Yes, 
Stanley, I conjure you to tell it all." 

He said something. She thought it was " I'll think ;" 
and then he closed his eyes. It was the only motion she 
had observed, his face lay just as it had done on the pillow. 
He had not stirred all the time she was there ; and nowj 
that his eyelids closed, it seemed to say, our interview is 
over — the curtain has dropped ; and so understanding it, 
with that one awful look that may be the last, she glided 
from the bed-side, told old Dorothy that he seemed dispos- 
ed to sleep, and left the room. 

In the meanwhile, on his return to the library, Lord 
Chelford found his dowager mother in high chat with the 
attorney, whom she afterwards pronounced " a very "gen tie- 
manlike man for his line of life." 

The conversation, indeed, was chiefly that of Lady 
Chelford, the exemplary attorney contributing, for the 
most part, a polite acquiescence, and those reflections which 
most appositely pointed the moral of her ladyship's tale, 
which concerned altogether the vagaries of Mark Wylder 
— a subject which piqued her curiosity and irritated her 



It was a great day for Jos Larkin ; for by the time 
Lord Chelford returned the old lady had asked him to stay 
for dinner, which he did, notwithstanding his morning 



236 WrLDER'S HAJVD. 

dress, to 'his great inward satisfaction, because he could 
henceforward mentioo, " the other day, when I dined at 
Brandon," or "old Lady Chelford assured me, when last 
I dined a;t Brandon ; " and, in short, this dinner was yery 
serviceable to the excellent attorney. 

After dinner, when the dowager's place knew her no 
more. Lord Chelford resumed his talk with Larkin. 

" I am quite confirmed in the view lyn^aok at first," he 
said. " Wylder has no claim upon me. There are others 
on whom much more naturally the care of his money 
would devolve, and I think that my undertaking the office 
he proposes, under bia present strange circumstances 
might appear like an acquiescence in the extraordinary 
course he has taken, and a sanction generally of his con- 
duct, which I certainly can't approve. So, Mr. Larkin, I 
have quite made up my mind. I have no business to un- 
dertake this trust, simple as it is." 

" I have only, my Lord, to bow to your lordship's 
decision ; at the same time I cannot but feel, my Lord, 
how peculiar and painful is the position in which it places 
me. There are rents to be received by me, and sums 
handed over, to 'a, considerable — I may say, indeed, a 
very large amount ; and my friend Lake — Captain Lake 
— now, unhappily, in so very precarious a state, appears 
to dislike the office, also, and to anticipate annoyance, in 
the event of his consenting to act. Altogether, your lord- 
ship will perceive that the situation is one of considerable, 
indeed very great embarrassment, as respects me. There 
is, however, one satisfactory circumstance disclosed in his 
last letter. His return, he says, cannot be delayed beyond 
a very few months, perhaps weeks ; and he states, in his 
own rough way, that he will then explain the motives of 
his conduct to the entire satisfaction of all those who are 
cognisant of the measures which he has adopted — and he 



WrLDER'S ffAJVJJ. 237 

adds, it will then be quite understood tfeat he has acted 
neither from caprice, nor from any motive other than 
self-preservation. I assure you, my Lord, -that js ■the 
idraitical phrase he employs — self-preaervjiliom. I all 
along suspected, or, .rather, I mean, supposed, that Mr,. 
Wylder had been placed in this matter under coerciQU — 
a — threat." 

^' A little more wine ? " asted Lord Qhelford, .after 
another interval. 

"Ho — no more, I thank you. Your Jprdship's ivery 
good, and the wine, I jnay say, excellent — delicious 
claret ; indeed, -^ujte so ; but it grows late, J! rather .think, 
and the (trustees of our little Wesleyan chapel -- we've got 
a little into debt in that quarter, lam sorry to say — and 
I promised ;to advise with them this evening at nine o'clock. 
They ihave called me to counsel more than once, poor 
fellows ; and so, with your lordship's permission, I'll with- 
draw." 

Lord Chelford walked with him to .the^t^ps. It was a 
beautiful night — very little moon, but that and the sfars 
wonderfully clear and brjight, and all things Jookiflgrso soft 
and airy. 

" Try one of these," said the peer, presenting his iC^jgar 
case. 

Larkin, with a glow of satisfaction, took one of these 
noble cigars, and rolled it in his fingers, and smelt it. 

"Fragrant — wonderfully fragrant!" he observed, 
meekly, with a connoisseur's shake qf the head. 

The night was altogether so charming that Lord Chel- 
ford was tempted. So he took his cap, and lighted his 
cigar, too, and strolled a little way with the attorney. 

He walked under the solemn trees — the same under 
whose airy groyning Wylder and Lake had walked away 
together on that noteworthy night on -vvhich Mark had last 



238 wvljDER'S, hajvd. 

turned his back upon the grand old gables and twisted 
chimneys of Brandon Hall. 

This way was rather a round, it must be confessed, to 
the Lodge — Jos Larkin's peaceful retreat. But a stroll 
with a lord was worth more than that sacrifice, and every 
incident which helped to make a colorable case of confi- 
dential relations at Brandon — a point in which the good 
attorney had been rather weak hitherto — was justly priz- 
ed by that virtuous man. 

The cigar was delicious, the air balmy and pleasant, his 
digestion happy, the society unexceptionably aristocratic 
— a step had just been gained, and his consideration in the 
town and the country round improved, by the occurrences 
of the evening, and his whole system, in consequence, in 
a state so serene, sweet, and satisfactory, that I really 
believe there was genuine moisture in his pink, dovelike 
eyes, as he lifted them to the heavens, and murmured, 
" Beautiful, beautiful ! " And he mistook his sensations 
for a holy rapture and silent worship. 

Cigars, like other pleasures, are transitory. Lord Chel- 
ford threw away his stump, tendered bis case again to Mr. 
Larkin, and then took his leave, walking slowly home- 
wards. 



CHAPTER XL. 

IN WHICH SIR FRANCIS SEDDLBT MANIPULATES. 

At about two o'clock Buddie was called up, and spirit- 
ed away to Brandon in a dog-cart. A haemorrhage, per- 
haps, sudden shivering, and inflammation — a sinking, 



WYLDER'S HjIATV. 239 

maybe, or delirium — some awful change, probably — for 
Buddie did not return. 

Old Major Jackson heard of it, in his early -walk, at 
Buddie's door. He had begun to grow more hopeful. 
But hearing this he Tfalked home, and replaced the dress- 
coat and silk stockings he had ventured to remove, prompt- 
ly in his valise, which he buckled down and locked — 
swallowed with agitated voracity some fragments of break- 
fast — got on his easy boots and gaiters — brushed his 
best hat, and locked it into its leather case — placed his 
rug, great-coat, and umbrella, and a rough walking-stick 
for service, and a gold-tipped, exquisite cane, for duty on 
promenades of fashion, neatly on top of his valise, and 
with his old white hat and shooting-coat on, looking and 
whistling as much as possible as usual, he popped care- 
lessly into John Hobbs's stable, where he was glad to see 
three horses standing, and he mentally chose the black cob 
for~ his flight to Dollington. 

" A bloodthirsty rascal that Bracton," muttered the 
Major. The expenses were likely to be awful, and some 
allowance was to be made for his state of mind. 

He was under Doctor Buddie's porch, and made a flimsy 
rattle with his thin brass knocker. " Maybe he has return- 
ed ? " He did not believe it, though. 

The door was opened. The Doctor peeped out of his 
parlor. 

" Well? " enquired the Major, confoundedly frighten- 
ed. 

" Pretty well, thank ye, but awfully fagged — up all 
night, and no use." 

" But how is he?" asked the Major, with a dreadful 
qualm of dismay. 

" Same as yesterday — no change — only a little bleed- 
ing last night — not arterial ; venous, you know — only 



240 WVLDER'S HAJVV 

"Think he'll do then?" 

"He may — very unlikely though. A nasty case, as 
you can imagine." 

"He Willi certainly not go, poor fellow, before four 
o'clock p. M., I dare say — eh ? " 

The Major's soul was at the Dollington station, and 
was regulating poor Lake's departure by " Bradsho-w's 
Guide." 

" Who knows? We expect Sir Francis this morning. 
Glad to have a share of the responsibility off my shoulders, 
I can tell you. Come in and have a chop, will you ,? " 

" No, thank you, I've had my breakfast." 

I found in my lodgings in London, on my return from 
Doncaster, some two months later, a copy of the county 
paper of this date, with a cross scrawled beside the piece 
of intelligence which follows. I knew that tremulous 
cross. It was traced by the hand of poor old Miss Kybes 
— with her many faults always kind to me. It bore the 
Brandon postmark, and altogether had the impress of 
authenticity. It said : — 

" We have much pleasure in stating that the severe in- 
jury sustained four days since by Captain Stanley Lake, 
at the time a visitor, is not likely to prove so difficult of 
treatment or so imminently dangerous as was at first ap- 
prehended. The gallaht gentleman was removed from 
the scene of his misadventure to Brandon Hall, close to 
^hich the accident occurred, and at which mansion his 
noble relatives, Lord Chelford and the Dowager Lady 
Chelford, are at present staying on a ivisit. Sir Francis 
Seddley came down express from London, and assisted by 
our skilful county practitioner, Humphrey Buddie, Esq. 
M. D. of Gylingden, operated most successfully on Sat- 
urday last, and we are happy to say the gallant patient 
has since been going on as favorably as could ppgsibly hajve 



WVLDER'S HjIJVD. 241 

been anticipated. Sir Francis Seddley returned to London 
on Sunday afternoon." 

Within a week after the operation, Buddie began to 
talk so confidently about his patient, that the funeral 
cloud that overhung Brandon had almost disappeared, and 
Major Jackson had unpacked his portmanteau. 

About a week after the " accident" there came one of 
Mark Wylder's strange letters to Mr. Jos Larkin. This 
time it was from Marseilles, and bore date the 27th of 
November. It was much the longest he had yet received, 
and was in the nature of a despatch, rather than of those 
short notes in which he had hitherto, for the most part 
communicated. 

Like the rest of his letters it was odd, but written, as 
it seemed, in better spirits. 

" Dear Laekin, — You will be surprised to find me in 
this port, but I think my secret cruise is nearly over now, 
and you will say the plan was a master-stroke, and well 
executed by a poor devil, with nobody to advise him. I 
am coiling such a web round them, and making it fast, as 
you may see a spider, first to this point and then to the 
otlier, that I won't leave my persecutors one solitary 
chance of escape. I'll draw it quietly round and round 
— closer and closer — till they can neither blow nor budge, 
and then up to the yardarm they go,, with what breath is 
left in them. You don't know yet how I am dodging, or 
why my measures are taken ; but I'll shorten your long 
face a good inch with a genuine broad grin when you 
learn how it all was. I.may see you to tell the story in 
four weeks' time ; but keep this close. Don't mention 
where I write from, nor even so much as my name. I 
have reasons for everything, which you may guess, I dare 
say, being a sharp chap ; and it is not for nothing, be very 
11 



242 W¥LDER'S HAJVn. 

sure, that I am running this quaer rig, masquerading, 
hiding, and dodging, like a runaway forger, which is not 
pleasant any way, and if you doubt it only try. You 
must arrange about Ohelford and Lake. I don't know where 
Lake is staying. I don't suppose at Brandon ; but he 
won't stay in the country nor spend his money to please 
you or I. Therefore you must have him at your house — 
be sure — and I will square it with you ; I think three 
pounds a week ought to do it very handsome. Don't be 
a muff and give him expensive wines — a pint of sherry 
is plenty' between you ; and when he dines at his club 
half-a-pint does him, /know ; but if he costs you more, I 
hereby promise to pay it. Won't that do ? Well, about 
Chelford : I have been thinking he takes airs, and maybe 
he is on his high-horse about that awkward business about 
Miss Brandon. But there is no reason why Captain Lake 
should object. He has only to hand you a receipt in my 
name for the amount of cheques you may give him, and 
to lodge a portion of it where I told him, and the rest to 
buy Consols ; and I suppose he will expect payment for 
his no-trouble. Every fellow, particularly these gentle- 
manlike fellows, they have a pluck at you when they can. 
If he is at that, give him at the rate of a hundred a-year, 
or a hundred and fifty if you think he won't do for less ; 
though IQOl. ought to be a good deal to Lake ; and tell 
him I have a promise of the adjutancy of the county mi- 
litia, if he likes that ; and I am sure of a seat in Parliament 
either for the county or for Dollington, as you know, and 
can do better for him that ; and I rely on you, one way 
or another, to make him undertake it. And now for my- 
self : I think my vexation is very near ended. I have 
not fired a gun yet, and they little think what a raking 
broadside I'll give them. Any of the county people you 
meet, tell them I'm making a little excursion on the Con- 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 243 

tinent ; and if they go to particularise, you may say the 
places I have been at. Don't let any one know more. T 
wish there was any way of stopping that old she " — (it 
looked like dragon or devil — but was traced over with a 
cloud of flourishes, and only " Lady Chelford's mouth " 
was left untouched.) " Don't expect to hear from me- so 
long a yarn for some time again ; and don't write. I don't 
stay long anywhere, and don't carry my own name — and 
never ask for letters at the post. I've a good glass, and, 
can see pretty far, and make a fair guess enough what's 
going on aboard the enemy. 

" I remain always, Dear Larkin, Ever yours, truly, 

"Mark Wyldbr." 

" He hardly trusts Lake more than he does me, I pre- 
sume," murmured Mr. Larkin, elevating his bald head 
with an offended and supercilious air. 

" No. I take leave to think he certainly does not. Lake 
has got private directions about the disposition of a por- 
tion of the money, Of course, if there are persons to be 
dealt with who are not pleasantly approachable by respect- 
able professional people — in fact it would not suit me. 
It is really rather a compliment, and relieves me of the 
unpleasant necessity of saying — no." 

Yet Mr. Larkin was very sore, and curious, and in a 
measure, bated both Lake and Wylder for their secret 
confidences, and was more than ever resolved to get at the 
heart of Mark's mystery. 



CHAPTER XLI. 

A PAKA&EAPH IN THE COUNTY PAPER. 

The nature of his injury considered, Captain Lake re- 
covered with wonderful regularity and rapidity. In four 
weeks he was out rather pale and languid, but still able to 
walk without difficulty, leaning on a stick, for ten or fif- 
teen minutes at a time. In another fortnight he had made 
another great advance, had thrown away his crutch-handled 
stick, and recovered flesh and vigor. In a fortnight more 
he had grown quite like himself again ; and in a very few 
weeks more, I read in the same county paper, the follow- 
ing to me for a time incredible, and very nearly to this 
day amazing, announcement : — 

"makriase in high life. 

" The auspicious event so interesting to our county, 
which we have this day to announce, has been attended 
with as little publicity as possible. The contempla- 
ted union between Captain Stanley Lake, late of the 
Guards, sole surviving son of the late General Williams 
Stanley, Stanley Lake, of Plasrhwyn, and the beautiful and 
accomplished Miss Brandon, of Brandon Hall, in this 
county, was celebrated in the ancestral chapel of Brandon, 
in the immediate vicinity of the town of Gylingden, on 
yesterday. Although the marriage was understood to be 
strictly private — none but the immediate relations of the 
bride and bridegroom being present — the bells of Gyling- 



WYLDER'S HjlJVJ}. 245 

den rang out merry peals throughout the day, and the 
town was tastefully decorated with flags, and brilliantly 
illuminated at night." 

There was some more which I need not copy, being very 
like what we usually see on such occasions. 

I read this piece of intelligence half a dozen times over 
during breakfast. " How that beautiful girl has thrown 
herself away ! " I thought. " Surely the Chelfords, who 
have an influence there, ought to have exerted it to pre- 
vent her doing any thing so mad. 

" At the club, I saw it in the " Morning Post ; " and 
an hour after, old Job Gabloss, that prosy Argus who 
knows every thing, recounted the details with patient pre- 
cision, and in legal phrase, " put in " letters from two or 
three country houses proving his statement. 

So there was no doubting it longer ; and Captain Stan- 
ley Lake, late of her Majesty's — Regiment of Guards, 
idler, scamp, coxcomb, and the beautiful Dorcas Brandon, 
heiress of Brandon, were man and wife. 

The posture of affairs in the small world of Gylingden, 
except in the matter of the alliance just referred to, was 
not much changed. 

Since the voluminous despatch from Marseilles, promis- 
ing his return so soon, not a line had been received from 
Mark Wylder. In the meantime, Captain Lake accepted 
the trust. Larkin at times thought there was a constant 
and secret correspondence going on between him and 
Mark Wylder, and that he was his agent in adjusting 
some complicated and villanous piece of diplomacy by 
means of the fund — secret-service money — which Mark 
had placed at his disposal. 

Sometimes his suspicions took a different turn, and he 
thought that Lake might be one of those "persecutors " 
of whom Mark spoke with such mysterious hatred ; and 



246 WVLDER'S H^jvn. 

that the topic of their correspondence was, perhaps some 
compromise, the subject or the terms of which would not 
bear the light. 

Lake certainly made two visits to London, one^of them 
of a week's duration. The attorney being a sharp, long- 
headed fellow, who knew very well what buisness was, 
knew perfectly well, too, that two or three short letters 
might have settled any legitimate business which his gal- 
lant friend had in the capital. 

But Lake was now married, and under the incantation 
whistled over him by the toothless Archdeacon of Mun- 
dlebury, had sprung up into a county magnate, and was 
worth cultivating, and to be treated tenderly. 

Being very gentlemanlike in externals, with a certain 
grace amounting very nearly to elegance, and having ap- 
plied himself diligently to please the county people, that 
proud fraternity, remembering his father's estates, con- 
doned his poverty, and took Captain Lake by the hand, 
and lifted him into their superb, though not very enter- 
taining order. 

There were solemn festivities at Brandon; and festive 
solemnities at the principal county houses in return. 
Though not much of a sportsman. Lake lent himself 
handsomely to all the sporting proceedings of the county, 
and subscribed in a way worthy of the old renown of 
Brandon Hall to all sorts of charities and galas. So he 
was getting on very pleasantly with his new neighbors, 
and was likely to stand very fairly in that dull, but not 
unfriendly society. 

About three weeks after this great county marriage, 
there arrived, this time from Frankfort, a sharp letter, ad- 
dressed to Jos Larkin, Esq. It said : — 

" My dear Sir, — I think I have reason to complain. 



WYLDER'S BSjYD. £47 

I have just seen by accident the announcement of the 
marriage at Brandon. I think as my friend, and a friend 
to the Brandon family, you ought to have dono/Something 
to delay, if you could not stop it. Any way, it was your 
duty to have printed some notice that the thing was 
thought of. If you had put it, like a bit of news, in 
" Galignani," I would have seen it, and known what to 
do. Well, that ship's blew up. But I won't let all go. 
The cur will begin to try for the county or for DoUing- 
ton. You must quietly stop that, mind ; and if he per- 
sists, just you put an advertisement in " Galignani," say- 
ing, Mr. Smith will take notice, that the other party is 
desirous to pur-chase and becoming very pressing. Just 
you hoist that signal, and somebody will bear down, and 
blaze into him at all hazards — you'll see how. Things 
have gone quite smooth with me since ; but it won't be 
long till I run up my flag again and take the command. 
Be perfectly civil with Stanley Lake till I come pn board 
— that is indispensable ; and keep this letter as close from 
every eye as sealed orders. You may want a trifle to 
baulk S. L.'s electioneering, and there's an order on Lake 
for 200/. Don't trifle about the county and borough. 
He must have no footing in either till I return. 

" Yours, dear Larkin, 

"Yery truly 
" (but look after my business better), 

" M. Wyldee." 

The order on Lake, a little note, was enclosed : — 

" Dbab Lake, — I wish you joy, and all the good 
■wishes going, as I could not make the prize myself. 



248 WYLBER'S HAJVD. 

" Be so good to hand my lawyer, Mr. Jos Larkin, of 
the Lodge Gylingden, 200/. sterling, on my account. 
" Yours, dear Lake, 

" Very faithfully, 
2001. " M. Wtlbbr. 

"23rd Feb. &c. &c." 

When Jos Larkin presented this little order, it was in 
the handsome square room in which Captain Lake trans- 
acted business — a lofty apartment, wainscotted in carved 
oak, and with a great stone mantelpiece, with the Wylder 
arms, projecting in bold relief, in the centre, and a florid 
scroll with Jt(0|'^Il(!F5l^ standing forth as sharp as the 
day it was chiselled, nearly three hundred years before. 

There was some other business — Brandon business — 
to be talked over first; and that exhausted, Mr. Larkin 
sat, as usual, with one long thigh crossed upon the other — 
his arm thrown over the back of his chair, and his tall, 
bald head a little back, and his small, mild eyes twinkling 
through their pink lids on the enigmatical Captain. 

" I had a line from Mr. Mark Wylder yesterday 
afternoon, as usual- without any address but the post- 
mark; " and good Mr. Larkin laughed a mild, little pa- 
tient laugh, and lifted his open hand, and shook his head. 
" It really is growing too absurd — a mere order upon 
you to hand me 2001. How I'm to dispose of it, I have 
not the faintest notion." 

And he laughed again ; at the same time he gracefully 
poked the little note, between two fingers, to Captain 
Lake, who glanced full on him, for a second, as he took 
it. 

" And how is Mark," enquired Lake, with his odd, sly 
smile,, as he scrawled a little endorsement on the order. 
" Does he say anything ? " 



WVLDER'S HAJVJD. 249 

"No; absolutely nothing — he's a very strange cli- 
ent ! " said Lartin, laughing again. " There can be no 
objection, of course, to your reading it ; and he thinks — 
he thinks — he'll be here soon again — oh, here it is." 

Mr. Larkin had been fumbling, first in his deep waist- 
coat, and then in his breast-pocket, as if for the letter, 
■which was locked fast into the iron safe, with Chubb's 
patent lock, in his office at the Lodge. But it would 
not have done to have kept a secret from Captain Lake, 
of Brandon ; and therefore his not seeing the note was a 
mere accident. 

" Oh ! no — stupid ! — that's Mullett and Hock's. I 
have ilot got it* with me ; but it does not signify, for 
there's nothing in it. I hope I shall soon be favored 
with his directions as to what to do with, the money. 

" He's an odd fellow ; and I don't k;now how he feels 
towards me ; but on my part there is no feeling, I do as- 
sure you, but the natural desire to live on the friendly 
terms which our ties of family and our position in the 
county " — 

Stanley Lake was writing the cheque for 200/. mean- 
while, and handed it to Larkin ; and as that gentleman 
penned a receipt, the Captain continued — his eyes low- 
ered to the little vellum-bound book in which he was now 
making an entry ; — 

" You have handed me a large sum, Mr. Larkin — 
3,276/. lis.- id. I undertook this, you know, on the 
understanding that it was not to go on very long ; and I 
find my own business pretty nearly as much as I can 
manage. Is Wylder at all definite as to when we may ex- 
pect his return? " 

" Oh, dear no — quite as usual — he expects to be here 
soon; but that is all. I so wish I had brought hj? note 
with me ; but I'm positive that is all," 

So, this little matter settled, the lawyer took his leave 



CHAPTER XLII. 

AN EVIL EYE LOOKS ON THE VICAB. 

The Vicar's troubles grew and gathered, as such 
troubles will ; and the attorney gave him his advice ; 
and the business of the Rev. William Wylder gradually 
came to occupy a good deal of his time. JEere was a new 
reason for wishing to know really how Mark Wylder 
stood. William had undoubtedly the reversion of the 
estate ; but the attorney suspected sometimes — just from 
a faint phrase which had once escaped Stanley Lake — as 
the likeliest solution, that Mark Wylder had made a left- 
handed marriage somehow and somewhere, and that a sub- 
terranean wife and family would emerge at an unlucky 
moment, and squat upon that remainder, and defy the 
world to disturb them. This gave to his plans and deal- 
ings in relation to the Vicar a degree of irresolution for- 
eign to his character, which was grim and decided enough 
when his data were clear, and his object in sight. 

William Wylder, meanwhile, was troubled, and his 
mind clouded by more sorrows than one. 

Poor William Wylder had those special troubles which 
haunt nervous temperaments and speculative minds, when 
under the solemn influence of religion. What the great 
Luther called, without describing them, his "tribulations" 
— those dreadful doubts and apathies which at times men- 
ace and darken the radiant fabric of faith, and fill the 
soul with nameless horrors. The worst of these is, that 
unlike other troubles, they are not always safely to be 



WVLDER'S H^JVB. 251 

communicated to those who love us best. These terrors 
and dubitations are infections. Other spiritual troubles, 
too, there are ; and I suppose our good Vicar was not ex- 
empt from them any more than other Christians. 

The Vicar, with his little boy, Fairy, by the hand, used 
twice, ap least, in the week to make, sometimes an hour's, 
sometimes only half an hour's, visit at Redman's .Farm. 
Poor Rachel Lake made old Tamar sit at her worsteds in 
the window of the little drawing-room while these conver- 
sations proceeded. The young lady was so intelligent that 
William Wylder was obliged to exert himself in contro- 
versy with her eloquent despair ; and this combat with the 
doubts and terrors of a mind of much more than ordinary 
vigor and resource, though altogether feminine, compell- 
ed him to bestir liimself, and so, for the time, found him 
entire occupation ; and thus memory and forecast, and sus- 
pense, superseded, for the moment, by absorbing mental 
action. 

Rachel's position had not been altered by her brother's 
marriage. Dorcas had urged her earnestly to give up 
Redman's Farm, and take up her abode permanently at 
Brandon. This kindness, however, she declined. She 
was grateful, but no, nothing could move her. The truth 
was, she recoiled from it with a species of horror. 

The marriage had been, after all, as great a surprise to 
Rachel as to any of the Gylingden gossips. Dorcas, 
knowing how Rachel thought upon it, had grown reserved 
and impenetrable upon the subject ; indeed, at one time, I 
think, she had half made up her mind to fight the old 
battle over again and resolutely exorcise this fatal passion. 
She had certainly mystified Rachel, perhaps was mystify- 
ing herself. 

One evening Stanley Lake stood at Rachel's door. 

" I was just thinking, dear Radie," he said in hiss\ycg,t 



252 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

low tones, which to her ear always bore a suspicion of 
mockery in them, " how pretty you contrive to make this 
bright little garden at all times of the year — you have 
such lots of those evergreens, and ivy, and those odd flow- 
ers." 

" They call them immortelles in France," said Rachel, 
in a cold strange tone, ' ' and make chaplets of them to lay 
upon the coffin-lids and the graves." 

" Ah, yes, to be sure, I have seen them there and in 
Pere la Chaise — so they do ; they have them in all the 
cemeteries — I forgot that. How cheerful ; how very 
sensible. Don't you think it would be a good plan to stick 
up a death's-head and cross-bones here and there, and to 
split up old coffin-lids for your setting-sticks, and get old 
Mowlders, the sexton, to bury your roots, and cover them 
in with a " dust to dust," and so forth, and plant a yew tree 
in the middle, and stick those bits of painted board, that look 
so woefully like gravestones, all round it, and then let old 
Tamar prowl about for a ghost. I assure you, Radie, I 
think you, all to nothing, the perversest fool I ever en- 
countered or heard of in the course of my life." 
. " Well, Stanley, suppose you do, I'll not dispute it. 
Perhaps you are right," said Rachel, still standing at the 
door of her little porch. 

"Perhaps," he repeated with a sneer; "I venture to 
say, most positively, I can't conceive any sane reason for 
your refusing Dorcas's entreaty to live with us at Brandon, 
and leave this triste, and unwholesome, and everyway 
objectionable place." 

"She was very kind, but I can't do it." 
" Yes, you can't do it, simply because it would be pre- 
cisely the most sensible, prudent, and comfortable arrange- 
ment you could possibly make ; you won't do it — but 
you c^n and will practise all the airs and fooleries of a 



WYLDER'S HAjYD. 253 

bad melodrama. You have succeeded already in filling 
Dorcas's mind with surmise and speculation, and do you 
think the Gylingden people are either blind or dumb ? 
You are taking, I've told you again and again, the very 
way to excite attention and gossip. What good can it 
possibly do you ? You'll not believe until it happens, and 
when it does, you'd give your eyes you could undo it. It 
is so like you." 

" I have said how very kind I thought it of Dorcas to 
propose it. I can't explain to her all my reasons for de- 
clining ; and to you I need not. But I cannot overcome 
my repugnance — and I won't try." 

" I wonder," said Stanley, with a sly look of enquiry, 
" that you who read the Bible — and a very good book it 
is, no doubt — and believe in all sorts of things " — 

" That will do, Stanley. I'm not so weak as you sup- 
pose." 

" You know, Radie, I'm a Sadducee, and that sort of 
thing does not trouble me the least in the world. It is a 
little cold here. May we go into the drawing-room ? 
You can't think how I hate this — house. We are al- 
ways unpleasant in it." 

This auspicious remark he made taking off his hat, and 
placing it and his cane on her work-table. 

But this was not a tempestuous conference by any means. 
I don't know precisely what they talked about. I think 
it was probably the pros and cons of that migration to 
Brandon, against whicli Rachel had pronounced so firmly. 

" I can't do it, Stanley. My motives.are unintelligible 
to you, I know, and you think me obstinate and stupid ; 
but, be I what I may, my objections are insurmountable. 
And does it not strike you that my staying here, on the 
contrary, would — would tend to prevent the kind of 
conversation you speak of ? " 



254 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" Not the least, dear Radie — that is, I mean, it could 
have no possible effect, unless the circumstances were first 
supposed, and then it could be of no appreciable use. And 
your- way of life and your looks — for both are changed 
— are likely, in a little prating village, where every 
human being is watched and discussed incessantly, to excite 
conjecture ; that is all, and that is every thing." 

It had grown dark while Stanley sat in the little 
drawing-room, and Rachel stood on her doorstep, and saw 
his figure glide away slowly into the thin mist and shadow", 
and turn upward to return to Brandon, by that narrow 
ravine where they had held rendezvous. with Mark Wylder, 
on that ill-omened night when trouble began for all. 

When Stanley took his leave after one of these visits — 
stolen visits, somehow, they always seemed to her — the 
solitary mistress of Redman's Farm invariably experienced 
the nervous reaction which follows the artificial calm of sup- 
pressed excitement. Something of panic or horror, reliev- 
ed sometimes by a gush of tears — sometimes more slow- 
ly and painfully subsiding without that hysterical escape. 

She went in and shut the door, and called Tamar. But 
Tamar was out of the way. She hated that little drawing- 
room in her present mood — its associations were odious 
and even ghastly ; so she sat herself down by the kitchen 
fire, and placed her pretty feet — cold now — upon the 
high steel fender, and extended her cold hands towards the 
embers, leaning back in her rude chair. 



CHAPTER XLIII. 

IN WniOH OLD TAMAR LIFTS UP HER VOICE IN PRO- 
PHECY. 

Certainly Stanley Lake was right about Redman's 
Dell. Once the sun had gone down behind the distant 
hills, it was the darkest, the most silent and the most sol- 
itary of nooks. 

It was not, indeed, quite dark yet. The upper sky had 
still a faint .grey twilight halo, and the stars looked wan 
and faint. But the narrow walk that turned from Red- 
man's .Dell was always dark in Stanley's memory ; and 
Sadducees are no more proof than other men against the 
resurrections of memory and the penalties of association 
and of fear. 

Captain Lake had many things to think of. Some 
pleasant enough as he measured pleasure, others trouble- 
some. But as he mounted the stone steps that conducted 
the passenger up the steep acclivity to the upper level of 
the dark and narrow walk he was pursuing, one black 
sorrow met him and blotted out all the rest. 

Captain Lake knew very well and gracefully practised 
the art df not seeing inconvenient acquaintances in the 
street. But here in this narrow way there met him full 
a hated shadow whom he would fain have " cut," by look- 
ing to right or left, or up or down, but which was not to 
be evaded — would not only have his salutation but his 
arm, and walked — a horror of great darkness, by his 
side — through this solitude. 

The young Captain stood for a moment still on reaching 



256 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

the upper platform. A tiny brook that makes its way 
among briars and shingle to the more considerable mill- 
stream of Redman's Dell, sent up a hoarse babbling from 
the darkness beneath. Why exactly he halted there he 
could not have said. He glanced over his shoulder down 
the steps he had just scaled. Had there been light his 
pale face would have shown just then a malign anxiety, 
such as the faoe of an ill-conditioned man might wear, who 
apprehends danger of treading on a snake. 

He walked on, however, without quickening his pace, 
waving very slightly from side to side his ebony walking- 
cane — thin as a pencil — as if it were a wand to becjkon 
away the unseen things that haunt the darkness ; and now 
he came upon the wider plateau, from which, the close 
copse receding, admitted something more of the light, faint 
as it was, that lingered in the heavens. 

A tall grey stone stands in the centre of this space. 
There had once been a boundary and a stile there. Stanley 
knew it very well, and was not startled as the attorney 
was the other night when he saw it. As he approached 
this, some one said close in his ear, 

" I beg your pardon, Master Stanley." 

He cowered down with a spring, as I can fancy a man 
ducking under a round-shot, and glanced speechlessly, and 
still in his attitude of recoil, upon the speaker. 

" It's only me. Master Stanley — your poor old Tamar- 
Don't be afraid, dear." 

" I'm not afraid — woman. Tamar to be sure — why, 
of course, I know you ; but what the devil brings you 
here ? " he said. 

Tamar was dressed just as she used to be when sitting 
in the open air at her knitting, except that over her 
shoulders she had a thin grey shawl. On her head was 
the same close linen nightcap, borderless and skull-like, 



WTLDER'S HAJ>fD. 



257 



and she laid her shrivelled, freckled hand upon his arm, 
and looking with an earnest and fearful gaze in his face 
she said — 

" It has been on my mind this many a day to speak to 
you. Master Stanley ; but whenever I meant to summat 
came over me, and I couldn't." 

"Well, well, well," said Lake, uneasily; " I mean to 
call to-morrow, or next day, or some day soon, at Red- 
man's Farm. I'll hear it tlien; this is no place, you 
know, Tamar, to talk in ; besides I'm pressed for time, 
and can't stay now to listen." 

" Master Stanley, for the love of Heaven — you know 
what I'm going to speak of ; my old bones have carried 
me here — 'tis years since I walked so far. I'd walk till 
I dropped to reach you — but I'd say what's on my mind, 
'tis like a message from Heaven — and I must speak — 
aye, dear, I must." 

" But I say I can't stay. Who made you a prophet ? 
You used not to be a fool, Tamar ; when I tell you I can't, 
that's enough." 

Tamar did not move her fingers from the sleeve of his 
coat, on which they rested, and that thin pressure mys- 
teriously detained him. 

" See, Master Stanley, if I don't say it to you, I must 
to another," she said. 

" You mean to threaten me, woman," said he with a 
pale, malevolent look. 

" I'm threatening nothing but the wrath of God, who 
hears us." 

" Unless you mean to do me an injury, Tamar, I don't 
know what else you mean," he answered, in a changed 

tone. 

" Old Tamar will soon be in her coflSn, and this night 

far in the past, like many another, and 'twill be every- 



258 WYLDER'S HAJ^TD. 

thing to you, one day, for weal or woe, to hearken to her 
tvords Kow, Master Stanley." 

" Why, Tamar, haven't I told you I'm ready to listen 
to you. I'll go and see you — upon my honor I will — 
to-morrow, or next day, at the Dell ; what's the good of 
stopping me here ? " 

" Because, Master Stanley, something told me 'tis the 
hest place ; we're quiet, and you're more like to weigh my 
words here — and you'll he alone for a while after you 
leave me, and can ponder my advice as you walk home by 
the path." 

". Well, whatever it is, I suppose it won't take very long 
to say — let us walk on to the stone there, and then I'll 
stop and hear it — but you must not keep me all night,' 
he said, very peevishly. 

It was only twenty steps further on, and the woods re- 
ceded round it, so as to leave an irregular amphitheatre of 
some sixty yards across ; and Captain Lake, glancing 
from the corners of his eyes, this way and that, without 
raising or turning his face, stopped listlessly at the time- 
worn white stone, and turning to the old crone, who was 
by his side, he said, 

" Well, then, you have your way ; but speak low, please, 
if you have anything unpleasant to say." 

Tamar laid her hand upon his arm again ; and the old 
woman's face afforded Stanley Lake no clue, to the coming 
theme. Its expression was quite as usual — not actually 
discontent or peevishness, but crimped and puckered all 
over with unchanging lines of anxiety and suffering. Nei- 
ther was there any flurry in her manner — her bony arm 
and discolored hand, once her fingers lay upon his sleeve, 
did not move — only she looked very earnestly in his face 
as she spoke. 

" You'll not be angry. Master Stanley, dear ? though 



WYLDER'S HAJYJ}. 259 

if you be, I can't help it, for I must speak. I've heard 
it all<»— I heard you and Miss Eadie speak on the night 
you first came to see her after your sickness-; and I heard 
you speak again, by my room door, only a week before your 
marriage, when you thought I was asleep. So I've heard 
it all — and though I mayn't understand all the ins and 
and outs on't, I know it well in the main. Oh, Master 
Stanley, Master Stanley ! How can you go on with 
it ? " 

" Come, Tamar, what do you want of me ? " What 
do you mean ? What the d — is it all about ? " 

" Oh ! well you know, Master Stanley, what it's about." 

" Well, there is something unpleasant, and I suppose you 
have heard a smattering of it in your muddled way ; but 
it is quite plain* you don't in the least understand it, when 
you fancy I can do anything to serve any one in the small- 
est degree connected with that disagreeable business — or 
that I am personally in the least to blame in it ; and I 
can't conceive what business you had listening at the key- 
hole to your mistress and me, nor why I am wasting my 
time talking to an old woman about my affairs, which she 
can neither understand nor take part in," 

"Master Stanley, it won't do. I heard it — I could 
not help hearing. I little thought you had any such matter 
to speak — and you spoke so sudden like, I could not help 
it. You were angry, and raised your voice. What could 
old Tamar do ? I heard it all before I knew where I 
was." 

"I really think, Tamar, yo^ve taken leave of your 
wits — you are quite in the clouds. Come, Tamar, tell 
me, once for all — only drop your voice a little, if you 
please — what the plague has got into your old head. Come, 
I say, what is it ? " 

He stooped and leaned his ear to Tamar ; and when 



260 WVLDER'S HAJVI). 

she bad done, he laughed. The laugh, though low, sound- 
ed wild, and hollow in that dark solitude. 

" Really, dear Tamar, you must excuse my laughing. 
You dear old witch, how the plague could you take any 
such frightful nonsense into your head ? I do assure you, 
upon my honor, I never heard of so ridiculous a blunder. 
Only that I know you are really fond of us, I should nev- 
er speak to you again. I forgive you. But listen no 
more to other people's conversation. I could tell you how 
it really stands now, only I have not time ; but you'll 
take my word of honor for it, you have made the most 
absurd mistake that ever an old fool tumbled into. No, Ta- 
mar, I can't stay any longer now, but I'll tell you the 
whole truth when next I go to Redman's Farm. In the 
meantime, you must not plague poor Miss Radio with 
your nonsense. She has too much already to trouble her, 
though of quite another sort. Good night,, foolish old 
Tamar." 

" Oh, Master Stanley, it will take a deal to shake my 
mind ; and if it be so, as I say, what's to be done next — 
.what's to be done — oh, what is to be done ? " 

" I say good night, old Tamar ; and hold your tongue, 
do you see." 

" Oh, Master Stanley, Master Stanley ; my poor child 
— my child that I nursed ! — any thing would be better 
than this. Sooner or later judgment will overtake you, 
so sure as you persist in it. I heard what Miss Radie 
said ; and is not it true — is not it cruel — is not it fright- 
ful to go on ? " 

" You don't seem to be aware, my good Tamar, that 
you have been talking slander all this while, and might 
be sent to gaol for it. There, I'm not angry • — only you're 
a fool. Good night." 

He shook her hand, and jerked it from him with sup- 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 261 

pressed fury, passing on with a quickened pace. As he 
glided through the dark, toward splendid old Brandon, 
he grojind his teeth and uttered two or three sentences 
which no respectable publisher would like to print. 



CHAPTER XLIV. 

DEEP AND SHALLOW. 

Lawyer Larkin's mind was working more diligently 
than' any one suspected upon this puzzle of Mark Wylder. 
The investigation was a sort of scientific recreation to 
him, and something more. His sure instinct told him it 
was a secret well worth mastering. 

H6 had a growing belief that Lake, and perhaps-he only 
— except Wylder himself — knew the meaning of all this 
mysterious marching and counter-marching. Of course 
all sorts of theories w^ere floating in his mind ; but there 
was none that would quite fit all the circumstances. The 
attorney, had he asked himself the question, what was his 
object in these inquisitions, would have answered — I am 
doing what few other men would. I am, Heaven knows, 
giving to this afi'air of my absent client's, "gratuitously, as 
much thought and vigilance as ever I did to any case in 
which I was duly remunerated. This is self-sacrificing 
and noble, and just the conscientious conduct I should ex- 
pect from myself." 

But there was also this consideration, which you failed 
to define. 

" Yes ; my respected client, Mr. Mark Wylder, is suf- 
fering under some acute pressure, applied perhaps by my 



262 WYLDER'S HAJVJ). 

friend, Captain Lake. Why should not I share in the 
profit — if such there be — by getting my hand too upon 
the instrument of compression ? ' It is worth trying. Let 
us try." 

The Reverend William Wylder ivas often at the Lodge 
now. Larkin had struck out a masterly plan. The Vi- 
car's reversion, a very chimerical contingency, he would 
by no means consent to sell. His little man — little 
Fairy — oh ! no, he could not. The attorney only touched 
on this, remarking in a friendly way — 

" But then you know, it is so mere a shadow." 

This, indeed, poor William knew very well. But 
though he spoke quite meekly, the attorney looked rather 
black, and his converse grew somewhat dry and short. 

This sinister change was sudden, and immediately fol- 
lowed the suggestion about the reversion ; and the poor 
Vicar was a little puzzled, and began to consider whether 
he had said anything gauche or offensive — " it would be 
so very painful to appear ungrateful." 

The attorney had the statement of title in one hand, 
and leaning back in his chair, read it demurely in silence, 
with the other tapping the seal end of his gold pencil-case 
between his lips. 

" Yes," said Mr. Larkin, mildly, " it is so very sha- 
dowy — and that feeling, too, in the way. I suppose we 
had better, perhaps, put it aside, and maybe something 
else may turn up." And the attorney rose grandly to 
replace the statement of title in its tin box, intimating 
thereby that the audience was ended. 

But the poor Vicar was in rather urgent circumstances 
just then, and his troubles had closed in recently with a 
noiseless, but tremendous contraction, like that iron shroud 
in Mr. Mudford's fine tale ; and to have gone away into 
outer darkness, with no project on the stocks, and the at- 



WYLDER'S HJIJVD. 263 

torney's countenance averted, Would have been simply 
despair. 

" To speak frankly," said the poor Vicar, with that hec- 
tic in his cheek that came with agitation, " I never fancied 
that my reversionary interest could be saleable." 

" Neither is it, in all probability, answered the attor- 
ney. " As you are so seriously pressed, and your broth- 
er's return decayed, it merely crossed my mind as a thing 
worth trying." 

" It was very kind and thoughtful ; but that feeling — 
the — my poor little man ! However, I may be only 
nervous and foolish, and I think I'll speak to Lord Chel- 
ford about it." 

The attorney looked down, and took his nether lip 
gently between his finger and thumb. I rather think he 
had no particular wish to take Lord Chelford into coun- 
cil. 

" I think before troubling his lordship upon the sub- 
ject — if, indeed, on reflection, you should not think it 
would be a little odd to trouble him at all in reference to 
it — I had better look a little more carefully into the pa- 
pers, and see whether any thing in that direction is really 
practicable at all." 

" Do you think, Mr. Larkin, you can write that strong 
letter to stay proceedings which you intended yester- 
day ? " 

The attorney shook his head, and said, with a sad sort 
of dryness — " I can't see my way to it." 

The Vicar's heart sank with a flutter, and then swelled, 
and sank another bit, and his forehead flushed. 

There was silence. 

" You see, Mr. Wylder, I relied, in fact, altogether 
upon this a — arrangement ; and I don't see that any 
thing is likely to come of it." 



264 WYLDER'S HAND. 

The attorney spoke in the same dry and reserved way, 
and there was a shadow on his long face. 

"I am afraid I have, quite unintentionally, ofiFended 
you, Mr. Larkin — perhaps in my ignorance of business ; 
and I feel that I should be quite ruined if I were to for- 
feit your good offices ; and, pray tell me, if I have said 
any thing I ought not." 

" Oh, no — nothing I assure you," replied Mr. Larkin, 
with a lofty and gentle dryness. " Only, I think, I 
have, perhaps, a little mistaken the relation in which I 
stood, and fancied, wrongly, it was in the light somewhat 
of a friend as well as of a professional adviser ; and 
I thought, perhaps, I had rather more of your confidence 
than I had any right to, and did not at first see the necessity 
of calling in Lord Chelford, whose experience of business 
is necessarily very limited, to direct you. You remem- 
ber, my dear Mr. Wylder, that I did not at all invite these 
relations ; and I don't think you will charge me with 
want of zeal in your business." 

" Oh ! my dear Mr. Larkin, my dear sir, you have 
been my preserver, my benefactor — in fact, under Heav- 
en, very nearly my last and only hope." 

" Well, I had hoped I was not remiss or wanting in dili- 
gence." 

And Mr. Larkin took his seat in his most gentleman- 
like fashion, crossing his long legs, and throwing his tall 
head back, raising his eyebrows, and letting his mouth 
languidly drop a little open. 

" My idea was, that Lord Chelford would see more 
clearly what was best for little Fairy. I am so very 
slow and so silly about business, and you so much my 
friend — I have found you so — that you might think only 
of me." 

'" I should, of course, consider the little boy," said Mr. 



WELDER'S HAJVD. £Q5 

Larkin, condescendingly ; "a most interesting child. 
I'm very fond of children myself, and should, of course, 
put the entire case — to the best of my humble powers, 
before you. Is there any thing else just now you think 
of, for time presses, and really we have ground to appre- 
hend something unpleasant to-morrow. You ought not, 
my dear sir — you really ought not to have allowed it to 
come to this." 

The poor Vicar sighed profoundly, and shook his head, 
a contrite man. They both forgot that it was arithmeti- 
cally impossible for him to have prevented it, unless he 
had got some money. 

" Perhaps," said the Vicar, brightening up suddenly, 
and looking in the attorney's eyes for answer, " Perhaps 
something might be done with the reversion, as a security, 
to borrow a suflScient sum, without selling." 

The attorney shook his high head, and whiskers grey 
and foxy, and meditated with the seal of his pencil case 
between his lips. 

" I don't know that any lender, in fact, would entertain 
such a security. If you wish it I will write to Burling- 
ton, Smith, and Company, about it — they are largely in 
policies and post obits." 

" It is very sad — very sad, indeed. I wish so much, 
my dear sir, I could be of use to you ; but you know the 
fact is, we solicitors seldom have the command of our own 
money ; always in advance — always drained to the utter- 
most shilling, and I am myself in the predicament you 
will see there." 

And he threw a little note from the DoUington Bank 
to Jos Larkin, Esq., The Lodge, Gylingden, announcing 
the fact that he had overdrawn his account certain pounds, 
shillings, and pence, and inviting him forthwith to restore 

the balance. 

12 



266 WTLDER'S HAJVS. 

The Vicar read it with a vague comprehension, and in 
bis cold fingers shook the hand of his fellow-sufferer. 
Less than fifty pounds would not do ! Oh, where was he 
to turn ? It was quite hopeless, and poor Larkin pressed 
too! 

Now, there was this consolation in "poor Larkin's " 
case, that although he was quite run aground and a de- 
faulter in the DoUington Bank to the extent of 11. 12s. 
4rf. yet in that similar institution, which flourished at 
Naunton, only nine miles away, there stood to his name 
the satisfactory credit of 564/. lis. Id. One advantage 
which the good attorney derived from his double account 
with the rival institutions was, that whenever convenient 
he could throw one of these certificates of destitution and 
impotence sadly under the eyes of a client in want of 
money, like poor Will Wylder. 

The attorney had no pleasure in doing people ill turns. 
But he had come to hear the distresses of his clients. as 
tranquilly as doctors do the pangs of their patients. As 
he stood meditating near his window, he saw the poor Vi- 
car, with slow limbs and downcast countenance, walk un- 
der his laburnums and laurustinuses towards his little 
gate, and suddenly stop and turn round, and make about 
a dozen quick steps, like a man who has found a bright 
idea, towards the house, and then come to a thoughtful halt, 
and so turn and recommence his slow march of despair 
homeward. 

At five o'clock — it was' dark how — there was a tread 
on the door-steps, and a double tattdb at the tiny knocker. 
It was the " lawyer." 

Mr. Larkin_ entered the Vicar's study, where he was 
supposed to be busy about his sermon. 

" My dear sir; thinking about you — and I have just 
heard from an old humble friend, who wants high interest, 



WYLDER'S HJlJ\rD. 267 

and of course is content to take security somewhat per- 
sonal in its nature. I have written already. He's in the 
hands of Burlington, Smith, and Company. I have 
got exactly 55/. since I saw you, which makes me all 
right at Dollington; and here's my cheque for^50Z, which 
you can send — or perhaps I had hetter send by this 
night's post — to those Cambridge people. It settles that ; 
and you give me a line on this stamp, acknowledging the 
50/. on account of money to be raised on your reversion. 
So that's off your mind, my dear sir." 

" Oh, Mr. Larkin — my — my — you don't know, sir, 
what you have done for me — the agony — oh, thank 
God ! what a friend is raised up." * 

And he clasped and wrung the long hands of the attor- 
ney, and I really think there was a little moisture in that 
gentleman's pink eyes for a moment or two. 

When he was gone the Vicar returned from the door- 
step, radiant — not to the study but to the parlor. 

" Oh, Willie, darling, you look so happy — you were 
uneasy this evening," said his little ugly wife, with a 
beautiful smile, jumping up and clasping him. 

" Yes, darling, I was — very Uneasy ; but thank God, 
it is over." ^ 

And they cried and smiled together in that delightful 
embrace, while all the time little Fairy, with a paper cap 
on his head, was telling them half-a-dozen things togeth- 
er, and pulling Wapsie, as he called his father, by the 
skirts. 



CHAPTER XLV. 

DEBATE AND INTERRUPTION. 

Rachel beheld the things which were coming to pass 
like an awful dream. She had begun to think, and not 



268 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

without evidence, that Dorcas, for some cause or caprice, 
had ceased to think of Stanley as she once did. And the 
announcement, without preparation or apparent courtship, 
that her brother had actually won this great and beautiful 
heiress, and that, just emerged from the shades of death, 
he, a half- ruined scapegrace, was about to take his place 
among the magnates of -the county, towered before -her 
like an incredible and disastrous illusion of magic. 

Stanley's uneasiness lest Rachel's conduct should com- 
promise them increased. He grew more nervous about 
his relation between him and Mark Wylder, in proportion 
as the world grew more splendid and prosperous for him. 

Where is the woman who will patiently acquiesce in the 
reserve of her husband who shares his confidence with 
another ? How often had Stanley Lake sworn to her there 
was no secret ; that he knew nothing of Mark Wylder be- 
yond the charge of his money, and making a small payment 
• to an old Mrs. Dutton, in London, by his direction, and 
that beyond this, he was as absolutely in the dark as she 
or Chelford? 

What, then, did Rachel mean by all that escaped her, 
when he was in danger ? 

" How the — could he tell ? He really believed she 
was a little — ever so little — crazed. He supposed she, 
like Dorcas, fancied he knew everything about Wylder. 
She was constantly hinting something of the kind ; and 
begging of him to make a disclosure of what ? It was 
enough to drive one mad, and would make a capital 
farce. Rachel has a ridiculous way of talking like an 
oracle, and treating as settled fact every absurdity she 
fancies. She is very charming and clever, of course, so 
long as she speaks of the kind of thing she understands. 
But when she tries to talk of serious business — poor 
Radie ! — she certainly does talk nonsense ! It is the 
most tiresome thing you can conceive." 



WYLDER'S HAjXJ). £69 

"But you have not said, Stanley, that she does not 
suspect the truth." 

" Of course, I say it; I have said it. I swear it, if 
you like. Upon my honor and soul, I know no more of 
his movements, plans, or motives, than you do. If you 
reflect you must see it. We were never good friends, 
Mark and I. It was no fault of mine, hut I never liked 
him ; and he, consequently, I suppose, never liked me. I 
was the last man on earth he would have consulted with. 
Even Larkin, his own lawyer, is in the dark. Rachel 
knows all this. I have told her fifty times over, and she 
seems to give way at the moment. Indeed the thing is 
too plain to be resisted. But poor Radie can't reason ; 
and by the time I see her next, her old fancy possesses 
her. I can't help it ; because with more reluctance than 
I can tell, I at length consent, at Larkin s entreaty, I may 
say, to bank and fund his money." 

But Dorcas' mind retained its first impression. Some- 
times his plausibilities disturbed it for a time ; but there 
it remained like the picture of a camera obscura, into 
which a momentary light has been admitted, unseen for a 
second, but the images return with the darkness, and 
group themselves in their old colors and places again. 
Whatever it was Rachel probably knew it. There was a 
painful confidence between them ; and there was growing 
in Dorcas' mind a feeling toward Rachel which her pride 
forbade her to define. 

She did not like Stanley's stealthy visits to Redman's 
Farm; she did not like hia moods or looks after those 
visits, of which he thought she knew nothing. She did 
not know whether to be pleased or sorry that Rachel 
had refused to reside at Brandon ; neither did she 
like the stern gloom that overcast Rachel's countenance 
when Stanley was in the room, nor those occasional walks 



270 WYLDER'S HAJVV. 

together, up and down the short yew walk, in which Late 
looked so cold and angry, and Rachel so earnest. What 
was this secret ? How dared her husband mask from her 
what he confided to another ? How dared Rachel confer 
with him — influence him, perhaps, under her very eye, 
walking before the windows of Brandon — that Brandon 
which was hers, and to which she had taken Stanley, 
passing her gate a poor and tired wayfarer of the world, 
and made him — what ? Oh, mad caprice ! Oh, fit 
retribution ! 

A wild voice was talking this way, to-and-frb, and up 
and down, in the chambers of memory. But she would 
not let it speak from her proud lips. She smiled, and to 
outward seeming, was the same ; but Rachel felt that the 
fashion of her countenance towards her was changed. 

Since her marriage she had not hinted to Rachel the 
subject of their old conversation : burning beneath her 
feeling about it was now a deep-rooted anger and jealousy. 
Still she was Stanley's sister, and to be treated accordingly. 
The whole household greeted her with proper respect, and 
Dorcas met her graciously, and with all the externals of 
kindness. The change was so little, that I do not think 
any but she and Rachel saw it; and yet it was immense. 

There was a dark room, a sort of ante-room, to the 
library, with only two tall and narrow windows, and hung 
with old Dutch tapestries, representing the battles and 
sieges of men in periwigs, pikemen, dragoons in buff coats, 
and musketeers with matchlocks — all the grim faces of 
soldiers, generals, drummers, grown pale and dusky by 
time, like armies of ghosts. 

Rachel had come one morning to see Dorcas, and, 
awaiting her appearance, sat down in this room. The 
door of the library opened, and she was a little surprised 
to see Stanley enter. 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 271 

" Why, Stanley, they told me you were gone to Naun- 
ton." 

" Oh ! did they ? Well, you see, I'm here, Kadie." 

Somehow he was not very well pleased to see her. 

" I think you'll find Dorcas in the drawing-room, or 
else in the qonservatory," he added. 

" I am glad, Stanley, I happened to meet you. Some- 
thing must he done in the matter I spoke of immediately. 
Have you considered it ? " 

" Most carefully," said Stanley, quietly 

" But you have done nothing." 

" It is not a thing to be done in a moment." 

" You can, if you please, do a great deal in a mo- 
ment." 

" Certainly ; but I may repent it afterwards." 

" Stanley, you may regret postponing it, much more." 

"You have no idea, Rachel, how very tiresome you've 
grown." 

" Yes, Stanley, I can quite understand it. It would 
have been better for you, perhapg for myself, I had died 
long ago." 

" Well, that is another thing ; but in the meantime, I 
assure you, Rachel, you are disposed to be very imperti- 
nent." 

•' Very impertinent ; yes, indeed, Stanley, and so I 
shall continue to be until " — 

" Pray how does it concern you? I say it is no busi- 
ness on earth of yours." 

Stanley Lake was growing angry. 

" Yes, Stanley, it does concern me." 

" That is false." 

" True, true, sir. Oh, Stanley, it is a load upon my 
conscience — a mountain — a mountain between me and 
my hopes. I can't endure the misery to which you would 



272 WYLDER'S HAJVn. 

consign me you shall do it — immediately, too " (she 
stamped wildly as she said it), "and if you hesitate, 
Stanley, I shall be compelled to speak, though the thought 
of it makes me almost mad with terror." 

" What is he to do, Rachel ? " said Dorcas, standing 
near the door. 

It was a very awkward pause. The splendid young 
bride was the only person on the stage who looked very 
much as usual. Stanley turned his pale glare of fury 
from Rachel to Dorcas ; and Dorcas said again, 

" What is it, Rachel, darling ? " 

Rachel, with a bright blush on her cheeks, stepped 
quickly up to her, put her arms about her neck and 
kissed her, and over her shoulder she cried to her broth- 
er — 

" Tell her, Stanley." 

And so she quickly left the room, and was gone. 

" Well, Dorkie, love, what's the matter?" said Stan- 
ley^ sharply, at last breaking the silence. 

"I really don't knoV — you, perhaps, can tell," an- 
swered she coldly. 

" You have frightened Rachel out of the room for one 
thing," answered he, with a sneer. 

"I simply asked her what she urged you to do — I 
think I have a claim to know. It is strange so reasona- 
ble a question from a wife should scare your sister from 
the room." 

"I don't quite see that — for my part, I don't think 
anythmg strange in a woman. Rachel has been talking 
the rankest nonsense, in the most unreasonable temper 
conceiveable ; and because she can't persuade me to ac- 
cept her views of what is Christian and sensible, she 
threatens to go mad — I think that is her phrase." 

" I don't think Rachel is a fool," said Dorcas, quietly, 
her eye still upon Stanley. 



WYLDER'S HJl^TD. 273 

" Neither do I — -when she pleases to exert her good 
sense — hut she can^ -when she pleases, both talk and act 
like a fool." 

" And pray, what does she want you to do, Stanley ? " 

" The merest nonsense." 

"But what is it?" 

" I really can hardly undertake to say I very well un- 
derstand it myself, and I have half-a-dozen letters to 
write ; and really if I were to stay here and try to ex- 
plain, I very much doubt whether I could. Why don't 
yo^ ask her ? If she has any clear ideas on the subject 
I don't see why she should not tell you. For my part I 
doubt if she understands herself — -/certainly, don't." 

Dorcas smiled bitterly. 

" Mystery already — mystery from the first. / am to 
know nothing of your secrets. You confer and consult 
in my house — you debate and decide upon matters most 
nearly concerning, for aught I know, my interests and my 
happiness — certainly deeply affecting you, and therefore 
which I have a right to know; and my entering the room 
is the signal for silence, fer departure and for equivocation. 
Stanley, you are isolating me. Beware — I may entrench 
myself in that isolation. You are choosing your confidant, 
and excluding me ; rest assured you shall have no confi- 
dence of mine while you do so." 

Stanley Lake looked at her with a gaze at once peevish 
and inquisitive. 

" You take a wonderfully serious view of Rachel's 
nonsense." 

" I do." 

" Certainly, you women have a marvellous talent for 
making mountains of molehills — you and Eadie are 
adepts in the art. Never was a poor devil so lectured about 
12* 



274 WYLHER'S HAJVD. 

nothing as I between you. Come now, Dorkie^ be a good 
girl — you must not look so vexed." 

" I'm not vexed." 

"What then?" 

" I'm only thinking." 

She said this with the same bitter smile. Stanley Lake 
looked for a moment disposed to break into one of his 
furies, but instead he only laughed his unplea'saht laugh. 

" Well, I'm thinking too, and I find it quite possible to 
be vexed at the same time. I assure you, Dorcas, I really 
am busy ; and it is too bad to have one's time wasted in 
solemn lectures about stuff and nonsense. Do make Ka- 
chel explain herself, if she can — 1 have no objection, I 
assure you ; but I must be permitted to decline undertak- 
ing to interpret that oracle. And so saying, Stanley Lake 
glided into the library and shut the door with an angry 
clap. 

Dorcas did not deign to look after him. She had heard 
his farewell address, looking from the window at the tow- 
ering and sombre clumps of her ancestral trees — pale, 
proud, with perhaps a peculiar gleam of resentment — or 
malignity — in her exquisite features. 

So she stood, looking forth on her noble possessions — 
on terraces — " long rows of urns " — noble timber - — all 
seen in slanting sunlight and long shadows — and seeing 
nothing but the great word fool ! in letters of flame in 
the air before her. 



CHAPTER XLVL 

A THREATENING NOTICE. 

Stanley Lake was not a man to let the grass grow 
under his feet when an object was to be gained. It was 
with a sure prescience that Mark Wylder's letter had in- 
ferred that Stanley Lake would aspire to the representa- 
tion either of the county or of the borough of DoUing- 
ton. His mind was already full of these projects. 

All the data, except the muster-roll of electoM, were 
in nubibus — who would retire — who would step for- 
ward, as yet altogether in the region of conjecture. There 
are men to whom the business of elections — a life of se- 
cresy, excitement, speculation, and combat — has all but 
irresistible charms ; and Tom Wealdon, the Town Clerk, 
was such a spirit. 

A bold, frank, good-humored fellow — he played at 
elections as he would at cricket. Every faculty of eye, hand, 
and thought — his whole heart and soul in the game. 
But no ill-will — no malevolence in victory — no sourness 
in defeat. A successful coup made Tom Wealdon split 
with laughing. He did not show much ; his ofiScial sta- 
tion precluded prominence. He kept in the background, 
and did his spiriting gently. But Tom Wealdon, it was 
known — as things are known without evidence — was at 
the bottom of all the clever dodges, and long-headed ma- 
noeuvres. When, therefore, Mr. Larkin heard from the 
portly and veracious Mr. Larcom, who was on very happy 
relations with the proprietor of the Lodge, that Tom Weal- 



2T6 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

don had been twice quietly to Brandon to lunch, and had 
talked an hour alone with the Captain in the library each 
time ; and that they seemed very " hernest like, and stop- 
ped talking directly he (Mr. Larcom) entered the room 
with the post-bag " — the attorney knew very well what 
was in the wind. 

Now, it was not quite clear what was prudent — under 
the circumstances. He was in confidential — which meant 
lucrative — relations with Mark Wylder. Ditto, ditto 
with Captain Lake, of Brandon. He did not wish to lose 
either. Was it possible to hold to both, or must he cleave 
only to one and despise the other ? 

Wylder might return any day, and Tom Wealdon would 
probably be one of the first men whom he would see. 
He must " hang out the signal," in " Galignani." Lake 
could never suspect its meaning, even were he to see it. 
There was but one risk in it, which was in the coarse per- 
fidy of Mark Wylder himself, who would desire no better 
fun, in some of his moods, than boasting to Lake of the 
whole arrangement in Jos Larkin's presence. 

However, on the whole, it was best to obey Mark Wyl- 
der's orders, and accordingly " Galignani " said : " Mr. 
Smith will take notice that the other party is desirous 
to purchase, and becoming very pressing." 

In the meantime Lake was pushing his popularity among 
the gentry with remarkable industry, and with tolerable 
success. Wealdon's two little visits explained perfectly 
the active urbanities of Captain Stanley Lake. 

About three weeks after the appearance of the adver- 
tisement in " Galignani," one of Mark Wylder's letters 
reached Larkin. It was dated from Geneva (!) and 
said : -^ 

" Deae Lakkin, •— I saw my friend Smith here in the 
Oaf^, who has kept a bright look out, I dare say ; and 



WYLDER'S HAjXD. 277 

tells me that Captain Stanley Lake is thinking of standing 
either for the coanty or for Dollington. I will thank 
you to apprise him that I mean to take my choice first ; 
and please hand him the enclosed notice open as you get 
it ; and, if you please, to let him run his eye also over 
a note to you, as I have my own reasons for wishing him 
to know that you have seen it. 

" This is all I will probably trouble you about elections 
for some months to come, or, at least, weeks. It being 
time enough when I go back, and no squalls a-head just 
noAV at home, though foreign politics looks muggy enough. 

" I have nothing particular at present about tenants or 
timber, except the three acres of oak behind Farmer Tan- 
by's — have it took down. Thomas Jones and me went 
over it Last September, and it ought to bring near 3,000/. 
I must have a good handful of money by May next. 
" Yours, my dear Larkin, 
" Very truly, 

" Makk "Wtidbk." 

Folded in this was a thin slip of foreign paper, on which 
were traced these lines : — 

" Private. 

" Dear Larkin, — Don't funk the interview with the 
beast, Lake — a hysena has no pluck in him. When he 
reads what I send him by your hand, he'll be as mild as 
you please. Parkes must act for me as usual — no blus- 
ter about givmg up. Lake's afraid of yours, 

"M. W." 

Within was what he called his " notice " to Stanley 
Lake, and i't was thus conceived : — 

" Private. 

" Dear Lake — I understand you are trying to make 



278 WVLDER'S HJIJ^D. 

all safe for next election in Dollington or the county. 
Now, understand at once, that / wonH 'permit that. 
There is not a country gentleman on the grand jury who 
is not your superior ; and there is no extremity I will not 
make you feel — and you know what I mean — if you 
dare despise this first and not unfriendly warning. 
" Yours truly, 

Mark Wtlder." 

Now there certainly was need of Wylder's assurance 
that nothing unpleasant should happen to the conscious 
bearer of such a message to an officer and a gentleman. 
Jos Larkin did not like it. Still there was a confidence 
in his own conciliatory manners and exquisite tact. Some- 
thing, too, might be learned by noting Lake's looks, de- 
meanor, and language under this direct communication 
from the man to whom his relations were so mysterious. 

Larkin looked at his watch ; it was about the hour when 
he was likely to find Lake in his study. The attorney 
withdrew the little private enclosure, and slipt it, with a 
brief endorsement, into the neat sheaf of Wylder's let- 
ters, all similarly noted, and so locked it up in the iron 
safe. He intended being perfectly ingenuous with Lake, 
and showing him that he had " no secrets — no conceal- 
ments — all open as the day " — by producing the letter 
in which the " notice " was enclosed, and submitting it 
for Captain Lake's perusal. 

When Lawyer Larkin reached the dim chamber, with 
the Dutch tapestries, where he had for a little while to 
await Captain Lake's leisure, he began to anticipate the 
scene now so immediately impending more uncomfortably 
than before. The "notice" was, indeed, so outrageous 
in its spirit, and so intolerable in its language, that, know- 
ing something of Stanley's wild and truculent temper, he 



WYLDER'S HJIKD. 279 

began to feel a little nervous about the explosion he was 
about to provoke. 

The Brandon connection, one way or other, was worth 
to the attorney in hard cash.between five and six hundred 
a-year. In influence, and what is termed " position," it 
was, of course, worth a great deal more. It would be a 
very serious blow to lose this. He did not, he hoped, 
care for money more than a good man ought ; but such a 
loss, he would say, he could not afford. 

Precisely the same, however, was to be said of hi^ con- 
nection with Mark Wylder ; and in fact, of late years Mr. 
Jos. Larkin of the Lodge had begun to put by money so fast 
that he was growing rapidly to be a very considerable man 
indeed. " Everything," as he said, " was doing very nice- 
ly ; and it would be a deplorable thing to mar, by any 
untowad act, this pilgrim's quiet and prosperous progress. 

In this stage of his reverie he was interrupted by a tall, 
powdered footman, in the Brandon livery, who came re- 
spectfully to announce that his master desired to see Mr. 
Larkin. 

Larkin' s soul sneered at this piece of state. Why 
could he not put his head in at the door and call him ? 
But still I think it impressed him, and that, diplomatical- 
ly, Captain Lake was in the right to environ himself with 
the ceremonial of a lord of Brandon. 

"Well, Larkin, how d'ye do? Anything about 
Raikes's lease ? " said the great Captain Lake, rising from 
behind his desk, with his accustomed smile, and extending 
his gentleman-like hand. 

" No, sir — nothing. Captain Lake. He has not come, 
and I don't think we should show any anxiety about it," re- 
plied the attorney, taking the Captain's thin hand rather 
deferentially. "I've had — a — such a letter from my 
— my client, Mr. Mark Wylder. He writes in a violent 



280 WYLDER'S HAJSTD.- 

passion, and I'm really placed in a most disagreeable po- 
sition." 

" Won't you sit down ? " 

"A — thanks — a — well I thought, on the whole, 
having received the letter and the enclosure, which I 
must say very much surprise me — very much indeed." 
And Larkin looked reprovingly on an imaginary Mark 
Wylder, and shook his head a good deal. 

" He has not appointed another man of business ? " 

"Oh, dear, no," said Larkin, quickly, with a faint, su- 
percilious smile. " No, nothing of that kind. The thing — 
in fact, there has been some gossipping fellow. Do you 
happen to know a person at all versed in Gylingden mat- 
ters — or, perhaps, a member of your club — named 
Smith?" 

" Smith ? I don't, I think, recollect any particular 
Smith, just at this moment. And what is Smith doing or 
saying?" 

" Why, he has been talking over election matters. It 
seems Wylder — Mr. Wylder — has met him in Geneva^ 
from whence he dates; and he says — he says — oh, 
here's the letter, and you'll see it all there." 

He handed it to Lake, and kept his eye on him while 
he read it. When he saw that Lake, who bit his lip dur- 
ing the perusal, had come to the end, by his glancing up 
again at the date, Larkin murmured — 

" Something, you see, has gone wrong with him. I 
can't account for the temper otherwise — so violent." 

" Quite so," said Lake, quietly ; " and where is the no- 
tice he speaks of here ? " 

" Why, really, Captain Lake, I did not very well know, 
it is such a production — I could not say whether you 
would wish it presented ; and in any case you will do me 
the justice to understand that I, for my part — I really 
don't know how to speak of it." 



WVLDER'S H^JVD. £81 

'' Quite so," repeated Lake, softly, taking the thin, 
neatly folded piece of paper which Larkin, with a sad in- 
clination of his body, handed to him. 

Lake, under the " lawyer's " small, vigilant eyes, qui- 
etly read Mark Wylder's awful threatenings through, 
twice over, and Larkin w^as not quite sure whether there 
was any change of countenance to speak of as he did so. 

" This is dated the 29th," said Lake, in the same quiet 
tone ; " perhaps you will be so good as to write a line 
across it, stating the date of your handing it to me." 

"I — of course — I can . see no objection. I may 
mention, I suppose, that I do so at your request." 

And Larkin made a neat little endorsement to that ef- 
fect, and he felt relieved. The hy^na certainly was not 
showing fight. 

" And now, Mr. Larkin, you'll admit, I think, that I've 
exhibited no ill-temper, much less violence, under the 
provocation of that note. 

" Certainly ; none whatever. Captain Lake." 

" And you will therefore perceive that whatever I now 
say, speaking in cool blood, I am not likely to recede 
from." 

Lawyer Larkin bowed. 

" And may I particularly ask that you will so attend 
to what I am about to say, as to be able to make a note 
of it for Mr. Wylder's consideration." 

" Certainly, if you desire ; but I wish to say that in 
this particular matter I beg it may be clearly understood 
that Mr. Wylder is in no respect more my client than you. 
Captain Lake, and that I merely act as a most reluctant 
messenger in the matter." 

" Just so," said Captain Lake 

" Now, as to my thinking of representing either coun- 
ty or borough," he resumed, after a little pause, holding 



282 WYLDER'S HAJSTB. 

* 

Mark Wylder's " notice " between his finger and thumb, 
and glancing at it from time to time, as a speaker might 
at his notes, " I am just as well qualified as he in every 
respect.; and if it lies betweeen him and me, I will un- 
doubtedly ofier myself, and accompany my address with 
the publication of this precious document which he calls 
his notice — the composition, in all respects, of a ruffian 
— and which will inspire every gentleman who reads it 
with disgust, abhorrence, and contempt. His threat I 
don't understand. I despise his machinations. I defy 
him utterly ; and the tii^e is coming when, in spite of his 
manoeuvring, I'll drive him into a corner and pin him to 
the wall. He very well knows that flitting and skulking 
frofli place to place, like an escaped convict, he is safe in 
writing what insults he pleases through the post. I can't 
tell how or where to find him. But his game of -hide-and- 
seek cannot go on for ever ; and when next I can lay my 
hand upon him, I'll make him eat that paper on his knees, 
and place my heel upon his neck." 

The attorney was standing during this sample of Lake's 
parliamentary rhetoric a little flushed, for he did not 
know the moment when a blue flicker from the rhetorical 
thunder-storm might splinter his own bald head, and for 
ever end his connection with Brandon. 

There was a silence, during which pale Captain Lake 
locked up Mark Wylder's warning, and the attorney twice 
cleared his voice. 

• " I need hardly say, Captain Lake, how I feel in this 
business. I" — 

" Quite so," said the Captain, in his soft low tones. 
" I assure you I altogether acquit you of sympathy with 
any thing so utterly ruffianly," and he took the hand of 
the relieved attorney with a friendly condescension. 
" The only compensation I exact for your involuntary 



WYLDER'S S^JVJD. 283 

part in the matter is that you distinctly convey the tenor 
of my language to Mr. Wylder, on the first occasion on 
which he affords you an opportunity of communicating 
with him. And as to my ever again acting as his trus- 
tee ; — though, yes, I forgot " — he made a sudden pause, 
and was lost for a minute in annoyed reflection — " yes, I 
must for a whilg. It can't last very long ; he must re- 
turn soon, and I can't well refuse to act until at least 
some other arrangement is made. There are quite other 
persons and I can't allow them to starve." 
. So saying, he rose, with his peculiar smile, and extended 
his hand to signify that the conference was at an end. 
And Larkin took his hat, and gracefully withdrew. 



CHAPTER XLVn. 

IN WHICH I GO TO BRANDON, AND SEE AN OLD ACQUAIN- 
TANCE IN THE TAPESTKY ROOM. 

To my surprise, a large letter, bearing the Gylingden 
postmark, and with a seal as large as a florin, showing, 
had I examined the heraldry, the Brandon arms with the 
Lake bearings quartered thereon, and proving to be a very 
earnest invitation from Stanley Lake, found me in Lon- 
don just about this time. 

I paused ; I was doubtful about accepting it, for the 
business of the season was just about to commence in ear- 
nest, and the country had not yet assumed its charms. 
But I now know very well that froni the fitst it was quite 
settled that down I should go. I was too curious to see 
the bride in her new relations, and to observe something 



284 WYLDER'S HAJVi). 

of the conjugal administration of Lake, to allow anything 
seriously to stand in the way of my proposed trip. 

There was a postscript to Lake's letter which might 
have opened my eyes as to the motives of this pressing 
invitation, which I pleased myself by thinking, though 
penned by Captain Lake, came in reality from his beauti- 
ful young bride. 

This small appendix was thus conceived : — 

"P. S. — Tom Wealdon, as usual, deep in elections, 
under the rose, begs you kindly to bring down whatever 
you think to be the best book or books on the subject, 
and he will remit to your bookseller. Order them in his 
name, but bring them down with you." 

- ^ 

So I was a second time going down to Brandon as hon- 
orary counsel, without knowing it. My invitations, I fear, 
were obtained, if not under false pretences, at least upon 
false estimates, and the laity rated my legal lore too high- 

I reached Brandon rather late. The bride had retired 
for the night. I had a very late dinner — in fact a sup- 
per — in the parlor. Lake sat with me chatting, rather 
cleverly, not pleasantly. Wealdon was at Brandon about 
sessions business, and as usual full of election stratagems 
and calculations. Stanley volunteered to assure me he 
had not the faintest idea of looking for a constituency. I 
really believe — and at this distance of time I may use 
strong language in a historical sense — that Captain Lake 
was the greatest liar I ever encountered with. He seemed 
to do it without a purpose — by instinct, or on principle 
— and would contradict himself solemnly twice or thrice 
in a week, without seeming to perceive it. I dare say he 
lied always, and about everything. But it was in matters 
of some moment that one perceived it. 



WYLDER'S HAjYJO. 283 

What object could be gain, for instance, by the fib he 
had just told me? On second thoughts this night he 
coolly apprised me that he had some idea of sounding the 
electors. So, my meal ended, we went into the tapestry 
I'oom where, the night being sharp, a pleasant bit of fire 
burned in the grate, and Wealdon greeted me. 

My journey predisposed me to sleep. Such volumes 
of fine and various country air, and such an eight hours' 
procession of all sorts of natural pictures are not tra- 
versed without effect. Sitting in ,my well-stufifed chair, 
my elbows on the cushioned arms, the conversation of 
Lake and the Town Clerk now and theB grew faint, and 
their faces faded way. and little " fyttes " and fragments 
of those light and pleasant dreams, like fairy tales, which 
visit such stolen naps, super'seded with their picturesque 
and musical illusions the realities and recollections of life. 

Once or twice a nod a little too deep or sudden called 
me up. But Lake was busy about the Dollington con- 
stituency, and the Town Clerk's bluff face was serious and 
thoughtful. It was the old question about Rogers, the 
brewer, and whether Lord Adleston and Sir William could 
not get him ; or else it had gone on to the great railway 
contractor, Dobbs, and the question how many votes his 
influence was really worth ; and, somehow, I never got 
very far into the pros and cons of these discussions, which 
soon subsided into the fairy tale I have mentioned, and 
that sweet perpendicular sleep — all the sweeter, like 
everything else, for being contraband and irregular. 

For one bout — I fancy a good deal longer than the 
others — my nap was much sounder than before, and I 
opened my eyes at last with the shudder and half horror 
that accompany an awakening from a general chill — a 
dismal and frightened sensation. 

I was facing a door about twenty feet distant, which 



286 WVLDER'S HAJVV. 

exactly as I opened my eyes, turned slowly onitsjiinges, 
and the figure of Uncle Lome, in hi's loose flannel habili- 
ments, ineffaceably traced upon my memory, like every 
other detail of ^that ill-omened apparition, glided into the 
room, and crossing the thick carpet with long, soft steps, 
passednear me, looking upon me with a malign sort of , 
curiosity for some two or three seconds, and sat down by 
the declining fire, with a sidelong glance still fixed upon 
me. 

I continued gazing on this figure with a dreadful in- 
credulity, and the indistinct feeling that it must be an al- 
lusion — and that if I could only wake up completely, it 
would vanish. 

The fascination was disturbed by a noise at the other 
end of the room, and I saw Lake standing close to him, 
and looking both angry and frightened. Tom Wealdon 
looking odd, too, was close at his elbow, and had his liand 
on Lake's arm, like a man who would prevent violence. 
I do not know in the least what had passed before, but Lake 
s^d — 

" How the devil did he come in ? " 

" Hush ! " was all that Tom Wealdon said, looking at 
the gaunt spectre with less of fear than inquisitiveness. 

" What are you doing here, sir? " demanded Lake, in 
his most unpleasant tones. 

" Prophesying," answered the phantom. 

" You had better write your prophecies in your room, 
sir — had not you ? — and give them to the Archbishop 
of Canterbury to proclaim, when they are finished ; we 
are busy here just now, and don't require revelations, if 
you please." 

The old man lifted up his long lean finger, and turn- 
ed on him with a smile which I hate even to remember. 

" Let him alone," whispered the Town Clerk, in a 



WYLBER'S HAjYD. 287 

Significant lyhisper, " don't cross him, and he'll not stay 
long." 

" Yow're here, a scribe," mwmured Uncle Lome, 
looking upon Tom Wealdon. 

" Aye, sir, a scribe and a Pharisee, a Sadducee, and a 
publican, and a priest, anda Levife,-' said the functionary, 
•with a wink at Lake. " Thomas Wealdon, sir ; happy to 
see you, sir, so well and strong, and likely to enlighten 
the religious world for many a day to come. It's a long 
time, sir, since I had the honor of seeing you ; and I'm 
always, of course, at your command." 

" Pshaw ! " said Lake, angrily. 

The Town Clerk pressed his arm with a significant side 
nod and a wink, which seemed to say, " I understand 
him ; can't you let me manage him ? " 

The old man did not seem to hear what they said ; but 
his tall figure rose up, and he extended the fingers of his 
left hand close to the candle for a few seconds, and then 
held them up to his eyes, gazing on his finger-tips, with a 
horrified sort of scrutiny, as if he saw signs and portents 
gathered there, and then the same cadaverous grin broke 
out over his features. 

" Mark Wylder is in an evil plight," said he. 

" Is he ? " said Lake, with a sly scoff, though he seem- 
ed to be a good deal scared, " We hear no complaints, 
however, and fancy he must be tolerably comfortable not- 
withstanding. 

" You know where he is," said Uncle Loriie. 

"Aye, in Italy; everyone knows that," answered 
Lake. 

" In Italy," said the old man, reflectively, as if trying 
to gather up his ideas, " Italy. Oh ! yes, Vallombrosa — 
aye, Italy, I know it well." 

" So do we, sir ; thank you for the information," said 
Lake, who nevertheless appeared strangely uneasy. 



288 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

" He has had a great tour to make. It is nearly ac- 
complished now ; when it is done, he will he like me, hu- 
mano major. He has seen the places which you are yet 
to see." 

" Nothing I should like better ; particularly Italy," 
said Lake. 

" Yes," said Uncle Lome, lifting up slowly a different 
finger at each name in his catalogue. " First, Lucus 
Mortis ; then Terra Tenebrosa ; next, Tartarus ; after that 
Terra Oblivionis ; then Herebus ; then Barathrum ; then 
Gehenna, and then Stagium Ignis." 

" Of course," acquiesced Lake, with an ugly sneer, 
and a mock bow. 

" And to think that all the white citizens were once 
men and women ! " murmured Uncle Lome, with a 
scowl. 

" Quite so," whispered Lake. 

" I know where he is," resumed the old man, with his 
finger on his long chin, and looking down upon the car- 
pet. 

" It would be very convenient if you would favor us 
with his address," said Stanley, with a gracious sneer. 
"I know what became of him," continued the oracle. 
" You are more in his confidence than we are," said 
Lake. 

" Don't be frightened — but he's alive ; I think they'll 
make him mad. It is a frightful pBght. Two angels 
buried him alive in Vallombrosa by night ; I saw it, stand- 
ing among the lotus and hemlock. A negro came to me, 
a black clergyman with white eyes, and remained beside 
me; and the angels imprisoned Mark; they put him on 
duty forty days and forty nights, with his ear to the river 
listening for voices ; and when it was over we blessed them ; 
and the clergyman walked with me a long while, to-and- 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 289 

and-fro upon the earth, telling me the wonders of the 
abyss." 

" And is it from the abyss, sir, he writes his letters ? " 
enquired the Town Clerk, with a wink at Lake. 

" Yes, yes, very diligent ; it behoves him ; and his 
hair is always standing straight on his head for fear. But 
he'll be sent up again, at last, a thousand, a hundred, ten 
and one, black marble steps, and then it will be the other 
one's turn. So it was prophesied by the black magici- 
an." 

" I thought, sir, you mentioned just now he was a 
clergyman," suggested Mr. Wealdon, who evidently enjoy- 
ed this wonderful yarn. 

. " Clergyman and magician both, and the chief of the 
lying prophets with thick lips. He'll come here some 
night and see you," said Uncle Lome, looking with a 
cadaverous apathy on Lake, who was gazing at him in re- 
turn, with a sinister smile. 

" Maybe it was a vision, sir," suggested the Town 
Clerk. 

" Yes, sir ; a vision, maybe," echoed the cavernous 
tones of the old man ; " but in the flesh or out of the flesh, 
I saw it." 

" You have had revelations, sir, I've heard," said Stan- 
ley's mocking voice. 

" Many," said the seer ; " but a prophet is never hon- 
ored. We live in solitude and privations — the world 
hates us — they stone us — they cut us asunder, even 
when we are dead. Feel me — I'm cold and white all 
over — I died too soon — I'd have had wings now only for 
that pistol. I'm as white as Gehazi, except on my head, 
when that blood comes." 

Saying which, he rose abruptly, and with long jerking 
13 



290 WYLDER'S HAMD. 

Steps limped to the door, at which, I saw, in the shade, 
the face of a dark-featured man, looking gloomily in. 

When he reached the door Uncle Lome suddenly stop- 
ped and faced us, with a countenance of wrath and fear, and 
threw up his arms in an attitude of denunciation, but said 
nothing* I thought for a moment the gigantic spectre was 
about to rush upon us in an access of frenzy ; but what- 
ever the impulse, it subsided — or was diverted by some 
new idea ; his countenance changed, and he beckoned as if 
to some one in the corner of the room behind us, and 
smiled his dreadful smile, and so left the apartment. 

" That d — d old madman is madder than ever," said 
Lake, in his fellest tones, looking steadfastly with his 
peculiar gaze upon the closed door. " Jermyn is with him, 
but he'll burn the house or murder some one yet. It's all 
d — d nonsense keeping him here — did you see him at 
the door ? — he was on the point of assailing some of us. 
He ought to be in a madhouse." 

" He used to be very quiet," said the Town Clerk, who 
knew all about him. 

"Oh! very quiet — yes, of course, very quiet, and 
quite harmless to people who don't live in the house with 
him, and see him but once in half-a-dozen years ; but you 
can't persuade me it is quite so pleasant for those who 
happen to live under the same roof, and are liable to be 
intruded upon as we have been to-night every hour of their 
existence." 

" Well, certainly it is not pleasant, especially for ladies," 
admitted the Town Clerk. 

" No, not pleasant — and I've quite made up my mind 
it shan't go on. It is too absurd, really, that such a 
monstrous thing should be enforced ; I'll get a private Act, 
next session, and regulate those absurd conditions in the 
will. The old fellow ought to be under restraint ; and I 
rather think it would be better for himself that he were." 



fVYLDER'S HjIJVD. 291 

" Who is he ? " I asked, speaking for the first time. 

" I thought you had seen him before now," said Lake. 

" So I have, but quite alone, and without ever learning 
who he was," I answered. 

" Oh ! He is the gentleman, Julius, for whom in the 
will, under which we take, those very odd provisions are 
made — such as I believe no one but a Wylder or a Bran- 
don would have dreamed of. It is an odd state of things 
to hold one's estate under condition of letting a madman 
wander about your house and place, making everybody in 
it uncomfortable and insecure, and exposing him to the 
imminent risk of making away with himself, either by ac- 
cident or design. I happen to know what Mark Wylder 
would have done — for he spoke very fiercely on the sub- 
ject — perhaps he consulted you ? " 

"No." 

" No ? well, he intended locking him quietly into the 
suite of three apartments, you know, at the far end of the 
old gallery, and giving him full command of the mulberry^ 
garden by the little private stair, and putting a good iron 
door to it ; so that " my beloved brother, Julius, at pres- 
ent afflicted in mind " (Lake quoted the words of the Avill, 
with an unpleasant sneer,) should have had his apartments 
and his pleasure grounds quite to himself." 

" And would that arrangement of Mr. Wylder's have 
satisfied the conditions of the will ? " said the Town 
Clerk. 

" I rather think, with proper precautions, it would. 
Mark Wylder was very shrewd, and would not have run 
himself into a fix," answered Lake. '■' I don't know any 
man shrewder ; he is, certainly." 

And Lake looked at us, as he added these last words, 
in turn, with a quick, suspicious glance, as if he had said 
somethipg rash, and doubted whether we had observed it. 



292 WYLDER'S HAJ^D. 

After a little more talk, Lake and the To-wn Clerk re- 
sumed, their electioneering conference, and the lists of 
electors were passed under their scrutiny, name by name, 
like slides under the miscroscope. 

The Town Clerk knew the constituency of Dollington 
at his fingers' ends ; and Stanley Lake quietly enjoyedf 
as certain minds will, the nefarious and shabby metamor- 
phosis which every now and then some familiar and res- 
pectable burgess underwent, in the spell of half-a-dozen 
dry sentences whispered in his ear ; and all this minute 
information is trustworthy and quite without malice. 

I went to my bedroom, and secured the door, lest Un- 
cle Lome, or Julius, should make me another midnight 
visit. So that mystery was cleared up. Neither ghost 
nor spectral illusion, but flesh and blood — though in my 
mind there has always been a horror of a madman akin to 
the ghostly or demoniac. 

I do not know how late Tom Wealdon and Stanley 
Lake sat up over their lists ; but I dare say they were in 
no hurry to leave them, for a dissolution was just then ex- 
pected, and no time was to be lost. 

When I saw Tom Wealdon alone next day in the street 
of Gylingden, he walked a little way with me, and, said 
Tom, with a grave wink — 

" Don't let the Captain up there be hard on the poor 
old gentleman. He's quite harmless — he would not hurt 
a fly. I know about him ; for Jack Ford and I spent five 
weeks in the Hall, about twelve years ago, when the fam- 
ily were away and thought the keeper was not kind to him. 
He fancies he's a prophet ; and says he's that old Sir 
Lome Brandon that shot himself in his bedroom. Well, 
he is a rum one ; and we used to draw him out — poor 
Jack and me. But he's as innocent as a child — and you 
know them directions in the will is very strong ; and they 



WYLDER'S HAJVn. 293 

say Jos Larkin does not like the Captain a bit too well — 
and he has the will off, every word of it ; and I think, if 
Captain Lake doos not take care, he may get into trouble ; 
and maybe it would not be amiss if you gave him a hint." 
Tom Wealdon, indeed, was a good-natured fellow ; and 
if he had had his way, I think the world would have gone 
smoothly enough with most people. 



CHAPTER XLVIII 

LAECOM, THE BUTLER, VISITS THE ATTORNEY. 

Now I may as well mention here an occurrence which, 
seeming very insignificant, has yet a bearing upon the 
current of this tale, and it is this. About four days after 
the receipt of the despatches to which the conference of 
Captain Lake and the attorney referred, there came a let- 
ter from the same prolific correspondent, dated 20th March, 
from Genoa, which altogether puzzled Mr. Larkin. It 
commenced thus : — 

" Genoa : 20th March. 
" Dear Larkin, — I hope you did the three commis- 
sions all right. Wealdon won't refuse, I reckon -^ but 
don't let Lake guess what the 150^. is for. Pay Martin 
for the job when finished ; it.is under 60^. mind ; and get 
it looked at first." 

There was a great deal more, but these were the pas- 
sages which perplexed Larkin. He unlocked the iron 
safe, and took out the sheaf of Wylder's letters, and con- 
ned the last one over very carefully. 



294 WYLDER'S HAJVn. 

" Why," said he, holding the text before his eyes in 
one hand, and with the fingers of the other touching the 
top of his bald forehead, " Tom Wealdon is not once men- 
tioned in this, nor in any of them ; and this palpably re- 
fers to some direction. And 1501. ? — no such sum has 
been mentioned. And what is this job of Martin's ? Is 
it Martin of the China Kilns, or Martin of the Bank ? 
That, too, plainly refers to a former letter — not a word 
of the sort. This is very odd indeed." 

Larkin's finger-tips descended over his eyebrow, and 
scratched in a miniature way there for a few seconds, and 
then his large long hand descended further to his chin, 
and his under-lip was, as usual in deep thought, fondled 
and pinched between his finger and thumb. 

" There has plainly been a letter lost, manifestly. I 
never knew anything wrong in this Gylingden ofiSce. 
Driver has been always correct ; but it is hard to know 
any man for certain in this world. I don't think the 
Captain would venture anything so awfully hazardous. I 
really can't suspect so monstrous a thing ; but, unquestion- 
ably, a letter has been lost — and who's to take it ? " 

Larkin made a fuller endorsement than usual on this 
particular letter, and ruminated over the correspondence 
a good while, with hip lip between his finger and thumb, 
and a shadow on his face, before he replaced it in its iron 
drawer. 

" It is not a thing to be passed over," murmured the 
attorney, who had come to. a decision as to the first step 
to be taken, and he thought with a qualm of the efiect of 
one of Wylder's confidential notes getting into Captain 
Lake's hands. 

While he was buttoning his walking boots, with his 
foot on the chair before the fire, a tap at. his study door 
surprised him. A hurried glance on the table satisfying 
him that no secret paper or despatch lay there, he called. 



WYLDER'S H^JVD. 295 

" Come in." 

And Mr. Larcom, the grave butler of Brandon, wear- 
ing outside his portly person a black garment then known 
as a " zephyr," a white choker and black trousers, and 
well polished, but rather splay shoes, and, on the whole, 
his fat and serious aspect considered, being capable of be- 
ing mistaken for a church dignitary, or at least for an 
eminent undertaker, entered the room with a solemn and 
gentlemanlike reverence. 

" Oh, Mr. Larcom ! a message, or business ? " said Mr. 
Larkin, urbanely. 

" Not a message, sir; only an enquiry about them few 
shares," answered Mr. Larcom, with another serene rev- 
erence, and remaining standing, hat in hand, at the door. 

" Oh, yes ; and how do you do, Mr. Larcom ? Quite 
well, I trust. Yes — about the Naunton Junction. Well, 
I'm happy to tell you — but pray take a chair — that I 
have succeeded, and the directors have allotted you five 
shares ; and it's your own fault if you don't make two 
ten-and-six a share. The^ Chowsleys are up to six and 
a-half, I see here," and he pointed to the " Times." 

Mr. Larcom's fat face smiled, in spite of his endeavor 
to keep it under. It was part of his business to look al- 
ways grave, and he coughed, and recovered his gravity. 

" I'm very thankful, sir," said Mr. Larcom, " very." 

" But do sit down, Mr. Larcom — pray do," said the 
attorney, who was very gracious to Larcom. " You'll 
get the scrip, you know, on executing, but the shares are 
allotted. They sent the notice for you here. And — and 
how are the family at Brandon — all well, I trust ? " 

Mr. Larcom blew his nose. 

"All, sir, well." 

" And — and let me give you a glass of sherry. Mr. 
Larcom, after your walk. I can't compete with the Bran- 



296 fVYLDER'S H.djV£>. 

don sherry, Mr. Larcom. Wonderful fine wine that ! — 
but still I'm told this is not a bad wine notwithstand- 
ing,-' 

Larcom received it with grave gratitude, and sipped it, 
and spoke respectfully cf it. 

"And — and any news in that quarter of MK Mark 
Wy Ider — any — any surmise ? I — you know — I'm 
interested for all parties." 

" Well, sir, of Mr. Wylder, I can't say as I know no 
more than he's been a subjeck of much unpleasant feelin', 
which I should say there has been a deal of angry talk 
since I last saw you, sir, between Miss Lake and the Cap- 
ting." 

•' Ah, yes, you mentioned something of the kind ; and 
your own impression, that Captain Lake, which I trust 
may turn out to be so, knows where Mr. Mark Wylder is 
at present staying." 

" I much misdoubt, sir, it won't turn out to be no good 
story for no one," said Mr. Larcom, in a low and sad tone, 
and with a long shake of his head. 

"No good story — hey? How do you mean, Lar- 
com ? " 

" Well, sir, I know you won't mention me, Mr. Lar- 
kin." 

" Certainly not — go on." 

"When people gets hot a-talking they won't mind a 
body comin' in; and that's how the Capting and Miss 
Rachel Lake they carried oh their dispute like, though me 
coming into the room." 

" Just so ; and what do you found your opinion about 
Mr. Mark Wylder on ? " 

" Well, sir, I could not hear mor^ than a word now and 
a sentince again ; and pickin' what meaning I could out 
of what Miss Lake said, and the Capting could not deny. 



WYLDER'S HAjYD. 29T 

I do suspeck, sir, most serious, as how they have put Mr. 
Mark Wylder into a mad-house ; and that's how I think 
it's gone with him ; an' you'll never see him out again if 
the Capting has his will." 

" Do you mean to say you actually think he's shut up 
in a mad-house at this moment ? " demanded the attorney ; 
his little pink eyes opened quite round, and his lank cheebs 
and tall forehead flushed, at the rush of wild ideas that 
whirred round him, like a covey of birds at the startling 
suggestion. " Did either Miss Lake or the Captain use 
the word mad-house ? " 

" Well, no." 

" Or any other word — lunatic asylum, or a — bedlamj 
or — or any other word meaning the same thing ? " 

" Well, I can't say, sir, as I remember; but I rayther 
think not. I only know for certain, I took it so ; and I 
do believe as how Mr. Mark Wylder is confined in a 
mad-house, and the Captain knows all about it, and won't 
do nothing to get him out." 

" H'm — very odd — very strange ; but it is only from 
the general tenor of what passed, by a sort of guess work, 
you have arived at that conclusion ? " 

Larcom assented. 

" Well, Mr. Larcom, I think you have been led into 
an erroneous conclusion. Indeed, I may mention I have 
reason to think so — in fact, to know that such is the 
case. What you mention to me, you know, as, a friend 
of the family, and holding, as I do, a confidential position 
alike in relation to Mr. Wylder and to the family of 
Brandon Hall, is of course sacred ; and any thing that 
comes from you, Mr. Larcom, is never heard in connec- 
tion with your name beyond these walls. And let me 
add, it strikes me as highly important; both in the inter- 
ests of the leading individuals in this unpleasant business, 



298 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

and also as pertaining to your own comfort and security, 
that you should avoid communicating what you have just 
mentioned to any other party. You understand ? " 

Larcom did understand perfectly, and so this little visit 
ended. 

Mr. Larkin took a turn or two up and down the room 
thinking. He stopped, with his finger tips to his eye- 
brow, and thought more. Then he took another turn, 
and stopped again, and threw back his head, and gazed 
for a while on the ceiling, and then he stood for a time 
at the window, with his lip between his finger and thumb. 

No, it was a mistake ; it could not be. It was Mark 
Wylder's penmanship — he could swear to it. There 
was no trace of madness in his letters, nor of restraint. 
It was not possible even that he was wandering from 
place to place under the coercion of a couple of keepers. 
No ; Wylder was an energetic and somewhat violent per- 
son, with high animal courage, and would be sure to 
break through any such machination. No, no ; it was 
quite out of the question — altogether visionary and im- 
practicable. Persons like Larcom do make such absurd 
blunders, and so misapprehend the conversation of edu- 
cated people. 

Mr. Larkin walked down direct to Gylingden, and paid 
a rather awful visit to Mr. Driver, of the post-office. A 
foreign letter, addressed to him, had most positively been 
lost. He had called to mention the circumstance, lest Mr. 
Driver should be taken by surprise by official investigation. 
Was it possible that the letter had been sent by mistake 
to Brandon — to Captain Lake ? Lake and Larkin you 
know, might be mistaken. At all events, it would be well 
to make your clerks recollect themselves. (Mr. Larkin 
knew that Driver's "clerks" were his daughters.) It 
is not easy to meet with a young fellow that is quite hon- 



WYLDER'S H^JVD. 299 

est. But if they knew that they would be subjected to a 
sifting examination on oath, on the arrival of the commis- 
sioner, they might possibly prefer finding the letter, in 
which case there would be no more about it. Mr. Driver 
knew him (Mr. Larkin), and he might tell his young men 
if they got the letter for him they should hear no more of 
it. 



CHAPTER XLIX. 

NEW LIGHTS. 

A FEW days later "Jos Larkin, Esq. The Lodge, 
Gylingden," received from London a printed form, duly 
filled in, and with the ofiicial signature attached, inform- 
him that enquiry having been instituted in consequence 
of his letter, no result had been obtained. 

The hiatus in his correspondence caused Mr. Larkin ex- 
treme uneasiness. He had a profound distrust of Cap- 
tain Lake. In fact, he thought him capable of everything. 
And if there should turn out to be anything not quite 
straight going on at the post-office of Gylingden — hith- 
erto an unimpeached institution — he had no doubt what- 
soever that that dark and sinuous spirit was at the bottom 
of it. 

Still it was too prodigious, and too hazardous to be prob- 
able ; but the Captain had no sort of principle, and a des- 
perately strong head. There was not, indeed, when they 
met yesterday, the least change or consciousness in the 
Captain's manner. That, in another man, would have in- 
dicated something ; but Stanley Lake was so deep — such - 
a mask — in him it meant nothing. 



300 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

Mr. Larkin next step was to apply for a commissioner 
to come down and investigate. But before he had time to 
take this step, an occurrence took place to arrest his pro- 
ceedings. It was the receipt of a foreign letter, of which 
the following is an exact copy : — 

Vehice : March 28. 
" Deak Laekin, — I read a rumor of a dissolution dur- 
ing the recess. Keep a bright look out. Here's three 
things for you : — 

" 1. Try and. get Tom Wealdon. He is a sina que 
non. [Mark's Latin was sailor like. J 

" 2. Cash the enclosed order for 150/. more, for the 
same stake. 

" 3. Tell Martin the tiles I saw in August last will 
answer for the cow-house ; and let him put them down at 
once. 

" In haste, 

" Yours truly,. 

" M. Wtldee." 

Enclosed was an order on Lake for 150/. 

When Larkin got this he was in his study. 

" Why — Why — this — positively this is the letter. 
How's this ? " 

And Mr. Larkin looked as much scared and astonished 
as if a spirit rose up before him. 

" This is the letter — aye this is the letter." 

He repeated this from time to time as he turned it over 
and looked at the postmark, and back again at the letter, 
and looked up at the date, and down at the signature, and 
read the note through. 

" Yes, this ia it — here it is — this is it. There's no 
doubt whatever —This is the letter referred to in the last 
— Wealdon, Martin, and the 150/." 



WVLDER'S HAJVD. 301 

And the attorney took out his keys, looking pale and 
stern, like a man about to open the door upon a horror, 
and unlocked his safe, and took out the oft-consulted and 
familiar series — letters tied up and bearing the label, 
" Mark Wylder, Esq." 

" Aye, here it is, Genoa, 20th, and this, Venice, 28th. 
Yes, the postmarks correspond ; yet the letter from Genoa, 
dated 20th, refers back to the letter from Venice, written 
eight days later ! the — well — I can't comprehend — 
how in the name of — how in the name " — 

He placed the two letters on his desk, and read them 
over, and up and down, and pondered darkly over them. 

"It is Mark Wylder's writing — I'll swear to it. 
What on earth can he mean ? He can't possibly want to 
confuse us upon dates, as well as places, because that 
would simply render his letters, for purposes of business, 
nugatory, and there are many things he wishes attended 
to." 

JCos Larkin rose from his desk, ruminating, and went to 
the window, and placed the letter against the pane. I 
don't think he had any definite motive in doing this, but 
something struck him that he had not remarked before. 

There was something different in the quality of the ink 
that wrote the number of the date, 28th, from that used 
in the rest of the letter. 

" What can that mean? " muttered Larkin, with a sort 
of gasp at his discovery ; and shading his eyes with his 
hand, he scrutinised the numerals — " 28th," again ; — 
" a totally different ink ! " 

He took the previous letter, frowned on it fiercely from 
his rat-like eyes, and then with an. ejaculation, as like an 
oath as so good a man could utter, he exclaimed, 

"I have it! " 

Then came a pause, and he said — . 



302 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

"Both alike! — blanks left when the letters were 
written, and the dates filled in afterward — not the same 
hand I think — no, not the same — positively a difierent 
hand." 

Then Jos Larkin examined these mysterious epistles 
once more. 

" There may be something in what Larcom said — a 
very great deal, possibly. If he was shut up somewhere 
they could make him write a set of these letters off at a 
sitting, and send them from place to place to be posted 
to make us think he was travelling, and prevent our finding 
where they keep him. Here it is plain there was a slip 
in posting the wrong one first." 

Well, if Stanley Lake were at the bottom of this hor- 
rid conspiracy, he certainly had a motive in clearing the 
field of his rival. And then — for the attorney had all 
the family settlements present to his mind — there was 
this clear motive for prolonging his life, that by the slip in 
the will under which Dorcas Brandon inherited, the bulk 
of her estate would terminate with the life of Mark Wyl- 
der ; and this other motive too existed for retaining him 
in the house of bondage, that by preventing his marriage, 
and his having a family to succeed him, the reversion of his 
brother William was reduced to a certainty, and would 
become a magnificent investment for Stanley Lake when- 
ever he might choose to purchase. Upon that purchase, 
however, the good attorney had cast his eye. He thought 
he now began to discern the outlines of a gigantic and 
symmetrical villany emerging through the fog. If this 
theory were right, William Wylder's reversion was cer- 
tain to take effect ; and it was exasperating that the na- 
tive craft and daring of this inexperienced Captain should 
forestall so accomplished a man of business as Jos Larkin. 

On the other hand, it was quite possible that Wylder 



WVLDER'S HJiJVJJ. 303 

was a free agent, and yet, for purposes of secrecy, employ- 
ing another person to post his letters at various continen- 
tal towns ; and this blunder might just as well have hap- 
pened in this case, as in any other that supposed the same 
machinery. 

On the whole, then, it was a diflScult question. But 
there were Larcom's conclusions about the mad-house to 
throw into the balance. And though, as respected Mark 
Wylder, they were grisly, the attorney would not have 
been sorry to be quite sure that they were sound. What 
he most needed were ascertained data. With these his 
opportunities were immense. 

Mr. Larkin eyed the Wylder correspondence now with 
a sort of reverence that was new to him. There was 
something supernatural and talismanic in the mystery. 
The sheaf of letters lay before him on the table, like Cor- 
nelius Agrippa's " blooody book" — a thing -to conjure 
with. What prodigies might it not accomplish for its 
happy possessor, if only he could read it aright, and com- 
mand the spirits which its spells might call up before 
him ? Yes, it was a stupendous secret. Who knew to 
what it might conduct ? There was a shade of guilt in 
his tamperings with it, akin to the black art, which he 
felt without acknowledging. This little parcel of letters 
was, in its evil way, a holy thing. While it lay on the 
table, the room became the holy of holies in his dark re- 
ligion ; and the lank attorney, with tall bald head, shaded 
face, and hungry dangerous eyes, a priest or a magician. 

Tiie attorney quietly bolted his study door, and stood 
erect, with his hands in his pockets, looking sternly down 
on the letters. Then he took a little gazetteer off a tiny 
shelf near the bell-rope, where was a railway guide, an 
English dictionary, a French ditto, and a Bible, and with 
his sharp penknife he deftly sliced from its place in the 
work of reference the folded map of Europe. 



304 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

It was destined to illustrate the correspondence, and 
Larkin sat down before it and surveyed, with a solemn 
stare, the wide scene of Mark Wylder's operations, as a 
general would the theatre of his rival's strategy. 

Referring to the letters, as he .proceeded, with a sharp 
pen in red ink, he made his natty little note upon «ach 
tOAvn or capital in succession, from which Wylder had da- 
ted a despatch. Boulogne, for instance, a neat little red 
cross over the town, and beneath, " 12th October, 1854 ; " 
Brighton ditto " 20th October, 1854 ; " Paris,* ditto, 
" 17th November, 1854;" Marseilles, ditto, "26th No- 
vember, 1854 ;". Frankfort, ditto, " 22nd February, 
1855;"- Geneva, ditto, "lOth March, 1855;" Genoa, 
ditto, " 20th March, 1855 ; " Venice, ditto, " 28th 
March, 1855." 

I may here mention that in the preceding notation I 
have marked the days and months exactly, but the years 
fancifully. 

Now Mr. Larkin was going into this business as he did 
into others, methodically. He, therefore, read what his 
gazetteer had to say about these towns and cities, stand- 
ing, for better ligUt, at the window. But though, the type 
being small, his eyes were more pink than before, he was 
nothing wiser, the information being of that niggardly 
historical and statistical kind which availed nothing in his 
present scrutiny. He would get Murray's handbooks, and 
all sorts of works — he was determined to read it up. 
He was going into this as into a great speculative case, in 
which he had a heavy stake, with all his activity, craft, 
and unscrupulousness. It might be the making of him. 

His treasure — his oracle — his book of power, the la- 
belled parcel of Wylder's letters, with the annotated map 
folded beside them — he replaced in their red-taped_liga- 
ture in his iron safe, and with Chubb's key in his pook- 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 305 

et, took hia hat and cane — the day was iine •^— and 
■walked forth for Brandon and the Captain's study. 



CHAPTER L. 

A FRACAS IN THE LIBRARY. 

It was still early in the day. Larcom received him 
gravely in the hall. Captain Lake was at home, as usual, 
up to one o'clock in the library — the most diligent ad- 
ministrator that Brandon had perhaps ever known. 

" Well, Larkin — letters, letters perpetually, you see. 
Quite well, I hope ? Won't you sit down — no bad news ? 
You look rather melancholy. Your other client is not 
ill — nothing sad about Mark Wylder, I hope ? " 

"No — nothing sad. Captain Lake — nothing — hut 
a good deal that is strange." 

" Oh, is there ? " said Lake in his soft tones, leaning 
forward in his easy chair, and looking on the shining 
points of his boots. 

"I have found out a thing," Captain Lake, which will 
no doubt interest you as much as it does' me. It will 
lead, I think, to a much more exact guess about Mr. 
Mark Wylder." 

There was an emphasis in the attorney's speech which 
was far from u^al, and indicated something. 

" Oh ! you ^ave ? May one hear it ? " said Lake, in 
the same silken tone, and looking down, as before, on his 
boots. 

" I've discovered something about his letters," said the 
attorney, and paused. 



306 WYLDER'S HAKD. 

" Satisfactory, I hope ? " said Lake as before. 

" Poul play, sir." 

"Foul play — is there? What is he doing now?" 
said Lake in the same languid way, his elbows on the 
arms of his chair, stooping forward, and looking serenely 
on the floor, like a man who is tired of his work, and en- 
joys his respite. 

" Why, Captain Lake, the matter is this — it amounts, 
in fact, to fraud. It is plain that the letters are writ- 
ten in batches — several at a time — and committed to 
some one to carry from town to town, and post, having 
'previously filled in dates to make them correspond with 
the exact period of posting them." 

The attorney's searching gaze was fixed on the Cap- 
tain, as he said this, with all the significance consistent 
with civility ; but he could not observe the slightest in- 
dication of change. I daresay the Captain felt his gaze 
upon him, and he undoubtedly heard his emphasis, but 
he plainly did not take either to himself 

" Indeed ! that is very odd," said Captain Lake. 

" Very odd," echoed the attorney. 

It struck Mr. Larkin that his gallant friend was a 
little over-acting, and showing perhaps less interest in 
the discovery than was strictly natural. 

" But how can you show it ? " said Lake with a slight 
yawn. " Wylder is such a fellow. I don't the least 
pretend to understand him. It may be a freak of his." 

" I don't think. Captain Lake, that is exactly a possi- 
ble solution here. I don't think, sir, he would write 
two letters, one referring back to the other, at the same 
time, and post and date the latter more than a week he- 
fore the other." 

" Oh ! " said Lake, quietly, for the first time exhibit- 
ing a slight change of countenance, and looking peevish 
and excited : " yes, that certainly does look very oddly." 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 307 

" And I think, Captain Lake, it behoves us to leave 
no stone unturned to sift this matter to the bottom." 

" With what particular purpose, I don't quite see," 
said Lake. " Don't you think possibly Mark Wylder 
might think us very impertinent ? " 

" I thihk, Captain Lake, on the contrary, we might 
be doing that gentleman the only service he is capable of 
receiving, and I know we should be doing something to- 
ward tracing and exposing the machinations of a conspir- 
acy." 

" A conspiracy ! I did not quite see your meaning. 
Then, you really think there is a conspiracy — formed by 
him or against him, which? " 

" Against him. Captain Lake. Did the same idea 
never strike you ? " 

" Not, I think, that I can recollect." 
" In none of your conversations upon the subject with 
— with members of your family ? " continued the attor- 
ney, with a grave significance. 

" I say, sir, I don't recollect," said Lake, glaring for 
an instant in his face very savagely. And pray, sir, have 
you no evidence in the letters you speak of but the in- 
sertion of dates, and the posting them in inverse order, 
to lead you to that strong conclusion ? " 

"None, as supplied by the letters themselves," an- 
swered Larkin, a little doggedly, " and I venture to think 
that is rather strong." 

" Quite so, to a mind like yours," said Lake, with a 
faint gleam of his unpleasant smile thrown upon the floor, 
"but other men don't see it; and I hope, at all events, 
there's a likelihood that Mark Wylder will soon return 
and look after his own business — I'm quite tired of it, 
and of" (he was going to say you) — " of everything 
connected with it," 



308 WYLDER'S H^JVD. 



(< 1 



' This delay is attended with more serious mischief. 
The Vicar, his brother, had a promise of money from him, 
and is in very great embarrassments ; and, in fact, were 
it not for some temporary assistance, which I may men- 
tion — although I don't speak of such things — I afford- 
ed him myself, he must have been ruined." 

" Don't you think he might take steps to relieve him- 
self considerably ? " 

'• I don't see it. Captain Lake," said the attorney, sad- 
ly and drily. 

" Well, you know best ; but are not there resources ? " 

" I don't see. Captain Lake, what you point at." 

" I'll give him something for his reversion, if he choos- 
es, and make him comfortable for his life." 

" I don't know, sir, that the Reverend Mr. Wylder 
would entertain anything in the nature of a sale of his 
reversion. I rather think the contrarv. I don't think 
his friends would advise it." 

" And why not ! It was never more than a contin- 
gency ; and now they say that Mark Wylder is married^ 
and has. children ; they tell me he was seen at Ancona," 
said Lake tranquilly. 

" T'Aey tell you ! who are /Aey? " said the attorney, 
and his dove's eyes were gone again, and the rat's eyes 
une'tiuivocally looking out of the small pink lids. 

"They — they," repeated Captain Lake. " Why, of 
course, sir, I use the word in its usual sense — that is, 
there is, there was a rumor when I was last in town, and 
I really forget who told me. Some one, two, or three, 
perhaps." 

" Do you think it's true, sir ? " persisted Mr. Larkin. 

" No, sir, I don't," said Captain Lake, fixing his eyes 
for a moment with a frank stare on the attorney's face ; 
" but it is quite possible it may be true." 



WYLDER'S HJIJVZ). 3O9 

" If it is, you know, sir," said Jos Larkin, " the rever- 
sion -would be a bad purchase at a halfpenny. I don't 
believe it either, sir," resumed the attorney, after a little 
interval ; '' and I could not advise the party you named, 
sir, to sell his remainder for a song." 

" You'll advise as you please, sir, and no doubt not 
without sufficient reason," retorted Captain Lake. 

There was a suspicion of a sneer — not in his counte- 
nance, not in his tone, not in his words — but somehow a 
suspicion, which, stung the attorney like a certainty, and 
a pinkish flush tinged his forehead. 

" You see, Captain Lake, to speak quite frankly — I 
may as well say, in passing, that I have no doubt on my 
mind you know a great deal more than you care to tell 
about the fate of Mr. Mark Wylder. I look upon it, sir, 
that that party has been made away with," 

" Old villain ! " exclaimed Lake, starting up, with a 
sudden access of energy, and his face looked whiter still 
than usual — perhaps it was only the light. 

" It won't do, sir," said Larkin, with a sinister quiet- 
ude. " I say there's been foul play. I think, sir, 
you've got him into some foreign mad-house, or place of 
confinement, and I won't stop till it's sifted to the bottom. 
It is my duty, sir." 

Captain Lake's slender hand sprang on the attorney's 
collar, coat and waistcoat together, and his knuckles, hard 
and sharp, were screwed against Mr. Larkin's jaw-bone, 
as he shook him, and his face was like a drift of snow, 
with two yellow fires glaring in it. 

" You d — d old miscreant ! I'll pitch you out of the 
window." 

"I — I say, let go. You're mad," said the attor- 
ney, disengaging himself with a sudden and violent ef- 
fort, and standing, with the back of a tall chair grasped 



310 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

in both hands, and the seat interposed between himself 
and Captain Lake. He was twisting his neck uncomfor- 
tably in his shirt collar, and for some seconds was more 
agitated, in a diflferent way, than his patron was. 

The fact was, that Mr. Larkin had a little mistaken his 
man. He had never happened before to see him in one 
of his violent moods, and fancied that his apathetic man- 
ner indicated a person more easily bullied. There was 
something, too, in the tone and look of Captain Lake 
which went a good way to confound and perplex his sus- 
picions, and he half fancied tha,t the masterstroke he had 
hazarded was a rank and irreparable blunder. 

" Allow me to speak a word, Captain Lake." 

" You d — d old miscreant ! " repeated the candescent 
Captain. 

" Allow me to say, you misapprehend." 

" You infernal old cur ! " 

" I mean no imputation upon you, sir. I thought you 
might have committed a mistake — any man may ; per- 
haps you have. I have acted, Captain Lake, with fidelity 
in all respects to you, and to every client for whom I've 
been concerned. Mr. Wylder is my client, and I was 
bound to say I was not satisfied about his present position, 
which seems to me unaccountable, except on the supposi- 
tion that he is under restraint of some sort. I never said 
you were to blame ; but you may be in error respecting 
Mr. Wylder. Y"ou may have taken steps. Captain Lake, 
under a mistake. I never went further than that. On 
reflection, you'll say so. I didn't, upon my honor." 

" Then you did not mean to insult me, sir ? " said Lake. 

" Upon my honor, and conscience, and soul. Captain 
Lake," said the attorney, stringing together, in his vindi- 
cation, all the articles he was assumed most to respect, 
" I am perfectly frank I do assure you. I never sup- 



WVLDER'S HAJ\ri>. 311 

posed for an instant more than I say. I could not ima- 
gine — I am amazed yon have so taken it." 

" But you think I exercise some control or coercion 
over my cousin, Mr. Mark Wylder. He's not a man, I 
can tell you, -wherever he is, to be bullied, no more than 
I am. I don't correspond with him. I have nothing to 
do with him or his affairs : I wash my hands of him. 

Captain Lake turned and walked quickly to the door, 
but came back as suddenly. 

" Shake hands, sir. We'll forget it. I accept what 
you say ; but don't talk that way to me again. I can't 
imagine what the devil put such stuff in your head. I 
don't care two pence. No one's to blame but Wylder 
himself. I say I don't care a farthing. Upon my honor, 
I quite see — I now acquit you. You could not mean 
what you seemed to say ; and I can't understand how a 
sensible man like you, knowing Mark Wylder, and know- 
ing me, sir, could use such — such ambiguous language. 
I have no more influence with him, and can no more af- 
fect his doings, or what you call his fate — and, to say 
the truth, care about them no more than the child unborn. 
He's his own master, of course. What the devil can 
you've been dreaming of I don't even get a letter from 
him. He's nothing to me." 

" You have misunderstood me ; but that's over, sir. I 
may have spoken with warmth, fearing that you might be 
acting under some cruel misapprehension — that's all ; 
and you don't think worse of me. I'm very sure, Captain 
Lake, for a little indiscreet zeal on behalf of a gentleman 
who has treated me with such unlimited confidence as Mr. 
Wylder. I'd do the same for you, sir ; it's my charac- 
ter." 

The two gentlemen, you perceive, though still agitat- 
ed, were becoming reasonable, and more or less compli- 
mentary and conciliatory ; and the masks which an elec- 



312 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

trie gust had displaced for a moment, revealing gross and 
somewhat repulsive features were being readjusted, while 
each looked over his shoulder. 

I am sorry to say that when that good man, Mr. Lar- 
kin, left his presence, Captain Lake indulged in a perfect- 
ly blasphemous monologue. His fury was excited to a 
pitch that was very nearly ungovernable ; and after it 
had exhibited itself in the way I have said. Captain Lake 
opened a little despatch-box, and took therefrom a foreign 
letter, but three days received. He read it through : his 
ill- omened smile expanded to a grin that was undisguisedly 
diabolical. With a scissoi% he dipt his own name where 
it occurred from the thin sheet, and then, in red ink and 
Roman capitals, he scrawled a line or two across the inte- 
rior of the letter, enclosed it in an envelope, directed it, 
and then rang the bell. 

He ordered the tax-cart and two horses to drive tan- 
dem. The Captain was rather a good whip, and he drove 
at a great pace to Dollington, took the train on to Char- 
teris, there posted his letter, arid so returned ; his temper 
continuing savage all that evening, and in a modified de- 
gree in the same state for several days after. 



CHAPTER LI. 

AN OLD FRIEND LOOKS INTO THE flAKDEN AT EBDMAN'S 
FARM. 

Lady Chelfokd, with one of those sudden changes of 
front which occur in female strategy, on hearing that 
Stanley Lake was actually accepted by Dorcas, had aa- 



WVLDER'S HAMD. 3^3 

sailed both him and his sister, whom heretofore she had 
petted and distinguished, with a fury that was startling. 
As respects Kachel, we know how unjust was the attack. 

And when the dowager opened her fire on Rachel, the 
young lady replied with a spirit and dignity to which she 
was not at all accustomed. 

So soon as Dorcas obtained a hearing, which was not 
for some time — for she, " as a miserable and ridiculous 
victim and idiot," was nearly as deep in disgrace as those 
" shameless harpies the Lakes " — she told the whole truth 
as respected all parties with her superb and tranquil 
frankness. 

Lady Chelford ordered her horses, and was about to 
leave Brandon next morning. But rheumatism arrested 
her indignant Aright : and during her week's confinement ■ 
to her room, her son contrived so that she consented to 
stay for " the odious ceremony," and was even sourly 
civil to Miss Lake, who received her advances quite as 
coldly as they were made. 

To Miss Lake, Lord Chelford,- though not in set terms, 
yet in many pleasanter ways, apologised for his mother's 
impertinence. Dorcas had told Jrnn also the story of 
Rachel's decided opposition to the marriage. 

He was so particularly respectful to her — he showed 
her by the very form into which he shaped his good wishes 
that he knew how frankly she had opposed the marriage 
— how true she had been to her friend Doroas — a,nd she 
understood him and was grateful. 

In fact, Lord Chelford, whatever might be his opinion 
of the motives of Captain Lake and the prudence of Dor- 
cas, was clearly disposed to make the best of the inevita- 
ble, and to stamp the new Brandon alliance with whatever 
respectability his frank recognition could give it. 

Old Lady Chelford's bitter and ominous acquiescence 



314 WYLDER'S HAJVJD. 

also came, and the presence of mother and son at the so- 
lemnity averted the family scandal which the old lady's 
first access of frenzy threatened. 

This duty discharged, she insisted, in the interest of her 
rheumatism, upon change of air ; and on arriving at Dux- 
ley, was quite surprised tO find Lady Dulhampton and her 
daughters there upon a similar quest. 

Lord Chelford was not long away when the story of 
Lady Constance was again alive and vocal. It reached 
old Jackson through his sister, who was married to the 
brother of the Marquis of Dulhampton's solicitor. It 
reached Lake from Tom Twitters, of his club, who kept 
the Brandon Captain au courant of the town-talk ; and 
it came to Dorcas in a more authentic fashion, though 
mysteriously, and rather in the guise of a conundrum than 
of a distinct bit of family intelligence, from no less a per- 
son than the old Dowager Lady Chelford herself. 

Stanley Lake, who had begun to entertain hopes for 
Rachel in that direction, went down to Redman's Farm, 
and, after his bleak and bitter fashion, rated the young 
lady for having perversely neglected her opportunities and 
repulsed 'that most desirable parti. In this he was in- 
tensely in earnest, for the connection would have done 
wonders for Captain Lake in the county. 

Rachel met this coarse attack with quiet contempt ; told 
him that Lord Chelford had, she supposed, no idea of mar- 
rying out of his own rank ; and further, that he. Captain 
Lake, must perfectly comprehend, if he could not appre- 
ciate, the reasons which would for ever bar any such rela- 
tion. 

But Rachel, though she treated the subject serenely in 
this interview, was sadder and more forlorn than ever, and 
lay awake at night, and perhaps, if we knew all, shed 
some secret tears ; and then with time came healing of 
these sorrows. 



WVLJOER'S HAJVJ}. 315 

Rachel's talks with the Vicar were frequent ; and poor 
little Mrs. William Wylder, who knew not the reasons of 
his visits, fell slowly, and to the good man's entire bewil- 
derment, into a chronic jealousy. It expressed itself 
enigmatically : it T/as circumlocutory, sad and mysteri- 
ous. 

" Little Fairy was so please'd with his visit to Redman's 
Farm to-day. He told me all about it ; did not you, lit- 
tle man ? But still you love poor old mamma best of 
all ; you would not like to have a new mamma. Ah, no ; 
you'd rather have your poor old, ugly Mussie. I wish I 
was handsome, my little man, and clever ; but wishing is 
vain. 

" Ah ! Willie, there wSis a time when you could not 
see how ugly and dull your poor foolish little wife was ; 
but it could not last for ever. How did it happen — oh, 
how ? — you such a scholar, so clever, so handsome, my 
beautiful Willie — how did you ever look down on poor 
wretched me?" 

" I think it will be fine, Willie, and Miss Lake will 
expect you at Redman's Farm ; and little Fairy will go 
too ; yes, you'd like to go, and mamma will stay at home, 
and try to be useful in her poor miserable way," and so 
on. 

The Vicar, thinking of other things, never seeing the 
reproachful irony in all this, would take it quite literally, 
assent sadly, and with little Fairy by the hand, set forth 
for Redman's Farm; and the "good little body, to the 
amaze nent of her two maids, would be heard passionately 
weeping in the parlor in her forsaken state. 

At last there came a great upbraiding, a great Sclair- 
cissement, and laughter, and crying, and hugging ; and 
the poor little woman, quite relieved, went off immediately, 
in her gratitude, to Rachel, and paid her quite an affec- 
tionate little visit. 



316 WYLDER'S HJIJVD. 

One night, after a long talk in the morning with good 
William Wylder, and great dejection following, all on a 
sudden, Rachel sat up in her bed, and in a pleasant voice, 
and looking more like herself than she had for many 
months, she said — 

" I think I have found the true way out of my troubles; 
Tamar. At every sacrifice to be quite honest; and to 
that, Tamar, I have made up my mind at last, thank God. 
Come, Tamar, and kiss me, for I am free once more." 

So that night passed peacefully. 

Rachel — a changed Rachel still — though more like 
her early self, was now in the tiny garden of Redman's 
Farm. The early spring was already showing its bright 
green through ihe . brown of winter, and sun and shower 
alternating, and the gay gossipping of sweet birds among 
the branches, were calling the young creation from its 
slumbers. The air was so sharp, so' clear so sunny, the 
mysterious sense of coming life so invigorating, and the 
sounds and aspect of nature so rejoicing, that Rachel with- 
her gauntlets on, her white basket of flower seeds, her 
trowel, and all her garden implements beside her, felt ier 
own spring of life return, and rejoiced in the glad hour 
that shone round her. 

Lifting up her eyes, she saw Lord Chelford looking over 
the little gate. 

" What a charming day," said he, with his pleasant 
smile, raising his hat, " and how very pleasant to see you 
at your pretty industry again." 

As Rachel came forward in her faded gardening cos- 
tume, an old silk shawl about her shoulders, and hoodwise 
over her head, somehow very becoming, there was a blush 
— he could not help seeing it — on her young face, and 
for a moment her fine eyes dropped, and she looked up, 
smiling a more thoughtful, sadder smile than in old days. 



WYLDER'S HAJVJ). 317 

"I am afraid lam a verj impertinent — at least a 
very inquisitive — wayfarer ; but I could not pass by 
without a word, even at the risk of interrupting you. 
And the truth is, I believe, if it had not been for that 
chance of seeing and interrupting you, I should not have 
passed through Redman's Dell to-day." 

He laughed a little as he said this ; and held her hands 
some seconds longer than is strictly usual in such a greet- 
ing. 

"You are staying at Brandon?" said Rachel, not 
knowing exactly what to say. 

" Yes ; Dorcas, who is always very good to me, made 
me promise to come whenever I was at Drackley. I ar- 
rived yesterday, and they tell me you stay so much at 
home, that possibly you might not appear in the upper 
world for two or three days ; so I had not patience, you 
see." 

It was now Rachel's turn to laugh a musical little rou- 
lade ; but somehow her talk was neither so gay, nor so 
voluble, as it used to be. She liked to listen ; but there 
was an unwonted difficulty in finding anything to say. 

" It is quite true ; I am more a stay-at-home than I 
used to be. I believe we learn to prize home more the 
longer we live." 

" I don't wonder at your being a stay-at-home, for, to 
my eyes, it is the prettiest spot of earth in all the world ; 
and if you find it half as hard to leave it as I do, jour 
staying here is quite accounted for." 

Rachel understood this little speech quite well, though 
she went on as if she did not. 

" And this little garden costs, I assure you, a great 
deal of wise thought. In sowing my annuals I have so 
much to forecast and arrange ; suitability of climate, for 
we have sun and shade here, succession of bloom and con- 
trast of color, and ever so many other important things." 



318 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

" I can quite imagine it, though it did not strike me 
before," he said, looking on her with a smile of pleasant 
and peculiar interest, which somehow gave a reality to 
this playful talk. " It is quite true ; and I should not 
have thought of it — it is very pretty," and he laughed 
a gentle little laugh, glancing over the tiny garden. 

" But after all, there is no picture of flowers, or still 
life, or even of landscape, that will interest long. You 
must be very solitary here at times — that is, you must 
have a great deal more resource than I, or, indeed, almost 
anyone I know, or this solitude must at times be oppres- 
sive. I hope so, at least, for that would force you to ap- 
pear among us sometimes." 

" No, I am not lonely — that is, not lonelier than is 
good for me. I have such a treasure of an old nurse — 
poor old Tamar — who tells me stories, and reads to me, 
and listens to my follies and temper, and sometimes says 
very wise things, too ; and the good Vicar comes often 
— this is one of his days — with his beautiful little boy, 
and talks so well, and answers my follies and explains all 
my perplexities, and is really a great help and comfort." 

" Yes," said Lord Chelford, with the same pleasant 
smile, " he told me so ; and seems so pleased to have met 
with so clever a pupil. Are you coming to Brandon this 
evening ? Lake asked William Wylder, perhaps he will 
be with us. I do hope you will come. Dorcas says 
there is no use in writing ; but that you know you are 
always welcome. May I say you'll come ? " 

Rachel smiled sadly on the snow-drops at her feet, and 
shook her head a little. 

" No, I must stay at home this evening — I mean I 
have not spirits to go to Brandon. Thank Dorcas very 
much from me — that is, if you really mean that she 
asked me." 



WVLDER'S HJUVn. 319 

" I am so sorry — I am so disappointed," said Lord 
Chelford, looking gravely and enquiringly at her. He 
began, I think, to fancy some estrangement there. " But 
perhaps to-morrow — perhaps even to-day — you may 
relent, you know. Don't say it is impossible." 

Rachel smiled on the ground, as before ; and then, 
with a little sigh and a shako of her head, said — 

" No." 

"Well, I must tell Dorcas she was right — you are 
very inexorable and cruel." 

" I am very cruel to keep you here so long — and I, 
too, am forgetting the Vicar, who will be here immediate- 
ly, and I must meet him in a costume less like the Wo- 
man of Endor." 

Lord Chelford, leaning on the little wicket, put his 
arm over, and she gave him her hand again. 

" Good-bye," said Rachel. 

" Well, I suppose I, too, must say good-bye ; and I'll 
say a great deal more," said he, in a peculiar, odd tone, 
that was very firm, and yet indescribably tender. And 
he held her slender hand, from which she had drawn the 
gauntlet, in his. " Yes, Rachel, I will — I'll say every- 
thing. We are old friends now — you'll forgive me 
calling you Rachel — it may be perhaps the last time." 

Rachel was standing there with such a beautiful blush, 
and downcast eyes, and her hand in his. 

" I liked you always, Rachel, from the first moment I 
saw you — I like you better and better ; and I've grown 
to like you so, that if I lose you, I think I shall never be 
the same again." 

There was a very little pause, the blush was deeper, 
her eyes lower still. 

" I admire you, Rachel — I like your character — I 
have grown to love you with all my heart and mind — 



320 WVLDJER'S HAJVD. 

quite desperately, I think. I know there are things 
against me — there are better-looking fellows than I — 
and — and a great many things — and I know very well 
that you will judge for yourself — quite differently from 
other girls ; and I can't say with what fear and hope I 
await what you may say ; but this you may be sure of, 
you will never find anyone to love you better, Rachel — 
I think so well — and — and now — that is all. Do you 
think you could ever like me ? " 

But Rachel's hand, on a sudden, with a slight quiver, 
was drawn from his. 

" Lord Chelford, I can't describe how grateful I am, 
and how astonished, but it could never be — no — nev- 
er." 

" Rachel, perhaps you mean my mother — I have told 
her everything — she will receive you with all the respect 
you so well deserve ; and with all her faults, she loves 
me, and will love you still more." 

" No, Lord Chelford, no." She was pale now, and 
looking very sadly in his eyes. " It is not that, but only 
that you must never, never speak of it again." 

" Oh ! Rachel, darling, you must not say that — I love 
you so — so desperately, you don't know." 

" I can say nothing else. Lord Chelford. My mind 
is quite made up — I am inexpressibly grateful — you will 
never know how grateful — but except as a friend — and 
won't you still be my friend ? - — I never can regard you." 

Rachel was so pale that her very lips were white as she 
spoke this in a melancholy but very firm way. 

"Oh, Rachel, it is a great blow — maybe if you thought 
it over ! — I'll wait any time." 

" No, Lord Chelford, I'm quite unworthy of your pre- 
ference ; but time cannot change me — and I am speak- 
ing, not from impulse, but conviction. This is our secret 



WYLDER'S H^JVD. 321 

— yours and mine — and we'll forget it ; and I could not 
bear to lose your friendship — you'll be my friend still — 
won't you. Good-bye." 

" God bless you, Rachel ! " And he hurriedly kissed 
the hand she had placed in his, and without a word more, 
or looking back, he walked swiftly down the wooded road, 
towards Gylingden. 

So then, it had come and gone ■ — gone for ever. 

" Margery, bring the basket in ; I think a shower' is 
coming." 

And she picked up her trowel and other implements, 
and placed them in the porch, and glanced up towards the 
clouds, as if she saw them, and had nothing to think of 
but her gardening and the weather, and as if her heart 
was not breaking. 



CHAPTER LII. 

THE VICAk's complications, WHICH LIVELY PEOPLE HAD 
BETTER NOT READ. 

William Wyldbr's reversion was very tempting. But 
Lawyer Larkin knew the value of the precious metals, 
and waited for more data. The more he thought over his 
foreign correspondence, and his interview with Lake, the 
more steadily returned upon his mind the old conviction 
that the gallant Captain was deep in the secret, whatever 
it might be. 

Whatever his motive — and he always had a distinct 
motive, though sometimes not easily discoverable — he 
was a good deal addicted now to commenting, in his confi- 
14* 



322 WYLDER'S HAjYD. 

dential talk, with religious gossips and others, upon the 
state of the poor Vicar's aflfairs, his inconceivable prodi- 
gality, the unaccountable sums he had made away with, and 
his own anxiety to hand over the direction of such a hope- 
less complication of debt, and abdicate in favor of any 
competent skipper the command of the water-logged and 
foundering ship. 

'•' Why, his brother Mark could get him cleverly out 
of it — could not he ? " wheezed the pork-butcher. 

" More serious than you suppose," answered Larkin, 
with a shake of his head. 

" It can't go beyond five hundred, or say nine hundred 
— eh, at the outside ? " 

" Nine hundred — say double as many thousand, and 
I'm afraid you'll be nearer the mark. You'll not mention, 
of course, and I'm only feeling my way just now, and 
speaking conjecturally altogether; but I'm afraid it is 
enormous. I need not remind you not to mention." 

I cannot, of course, say how Mr. Larkin's conjectures 
reached so prodigious an elevation, but I can now com- 
prehend why it was desirable that this surprising estimate 
of the Vicar's liabilities should prevail. Mr. Jos Larkiu 
had a weakness for enveloping much of what he said and 
wrote in an honorable mystery. He liked writing jori- 
vate or confidential at top of his notes, without apparent 
right or even reason to impose either privacy or confi- 
dence upon the persons to whom he wrote. There was, 
in fact, often in the good attorney's mode of transacting 
business just soupgon or flavor of an arriere pensSe of 
a remote and unseen plan, which was a little unsatisfacto- 
ry- 

Now, with the Vicar he was imperative that the matter 
of the reversion should be strictly confidential — altogeth- 
er " sacred," in fact. 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 323 

" You see, the fact is, my dear Mr. Wylder, I never 
meddle ia speculative things. It is not a class of busi- 
ness that I like or would touch with one of my fingers, so 
to speak," and he shook his head gently ; " and I may 
say, if I were supposed to be ever so slightly engaged in 
these risky things, it would be the i-uin of me. I don't 
like, however, sending you into the jaws of the city sharks 
— and I may make a solitary exception in your case ; but 
the fact is, if I thought you would mention the matter, I 
could not touch it even&r you. There's Captain Lake, 
of Brandon, for instance — I should not be surprised if I 
lost the Brandon business the day after the matter reached 
his ears. All men are not like you and me, my dear 
Mr. Wylder. The sad experience of my profession has 
taught me that a suspicious man of the world, without 
religion, vaj dear Mr. AVylder," and he lifted his pink 
eyes, and shook his long head and long hands in unison — 
" without religion — will imagine anything. They can't 
understand us." 

Now. the fifty pounds which good Mr. Larkin had pro- 
cured for the improvident Vicar, bore interest, I am al- 
most ashamed to say, at thirty per cent, per annum, and 
ten per cent, more the first year. But you are to remem- 
ber that the security was altogether speculative ; and Mr. 
Larkin, of course, made the best terms he could. 

Annual premium on a policy for £100 [double insurance 
being insisted upon by lender, to cover contingent ex- 
penses, and life not insurable, a delicacy of the lungs 
being admitted, on the ordinary scale] 101. Os. Od, 

Annuity payable to lender, clear of premium, tlie seouriT. 
ty being unsatisfectory . ti, lOs. Odi 



£17 Iffs.-Od; 



Ten pounds of whi6h (the premium), together with fgiur 
pounds ten shillings for expenses, &o. were payable in 



324 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

advance. So that thirty-two pounds, out of hi8 bor- 
rowed fifty, were forfeit for these items within a year and 
a month. In the meantime the fifty pounds had gone, as 
we know, direct to Cambridj^e ; and he was called upon 
to pay forthwith ten pounds for premium, and four pounds 
ten shillings for " expenses." Qvod impossibile. 

The attorney had nothing for it but to try to induce 
the lender to let him have another fifty pounds, pending 
the investigation of title — another fifty, of which he was 
to get, in fact, eighteen pounds. Somehow, the racking 
ofiF of this bitter vintage from one vessel into another did 
not seem to improve its quality. On the contrary, things 
were growing decidedly more awful. 

Now, there came from Messrs. Burlington and Smith a 
peremptory demand for the fourteen pounds ten shillings, 
and an equally summary one for twenty-eight pounds four- 
teen shillings and eight pence, their costs in this matter. 

When the poor Vicar received this latter blow, he laid 
the palm of his hand on the top of his head, as if to pre- 
vent his brain from boiling over. Twenty-eight pounds 
fourteen shillings and eight pence ! Q.uod impossibile 
again. 

When he saw Larkin, that conscientious guardian of his 
client's interests scrutinised the bill of costs very jealously, 
and struck out between four and five pounds. He explain- 
ed to the Vicar the folly of borrowing insignificant and 
insufiicient sums — the trouble, and consequently the cost, 
of which were just as great as of an adequate one. He was 
determined, if he could, to pull him through this. But 
he must raise a suflScient sum, for the expense of going 
into title would be something ; and he would write sharply 
to Burlington, Smith, and Co. and had no doubt the costs 
•would be settled for twenty-three pounds. And Mr. Jos 
Larkin's opinion upon the matter was worthy of respect, 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 325 

inasmuch as he was himself, under therose,-tbe " Co." of 
that firm, and ministered its capital. 

" The fact is you must, my dear Mr. Wylder, make an 
effort. It won't do peddling and tinkering in such a case. 
You will be in a worse position than ever, unless you bold- 
ly raise a thousand pounds — if I can manage such a 
transaction upon a security of the kind. Consolidate all 
your liabilities, and keep a sum in hand. You are well 
connected ^- powerful relatives — your brother has Hux- 
ton, four hundred a year, whenever present incumbent 
goes — and there are other things beside — but you must 
not allow yourself to be ruined through timidity ; and if 
you go to the wall without an effort, and allow yourself to 
be slurred in public, what becomes of your chance of pre- 
ferment ? " 

And now " title " went up to Burlington, Smith, and 
Co. to examine and approve ; and from that firm, a bill of 
costs was coming, when deeds were prepared and all done, 
exceeding three hundred and fifty pounds ; and there was 
a little reminder from good Jos Larkin for two hundred 
and fifty pounds more. This, of course, was to await Mr.. 
Wylder's perfect convenience. The Vicar knew him — 
he never pressed any man. Then there would be insur- 
ances in proportion ; and interest, as we see, was not tri- 
flings And altogether, I am afraid, our friend, the Vicar, 
was being extricated in a rather embarrassing fashion. 

Now, I have known cases. in which good-natured deb- 
auchees have interested themselves charitably in the difii. 
culties of forlorn families ; and I think / knev/, almost 
before tliey suspected it, that their generous interference 
was altogether due to one fine pair of eyes, and a pretty 
tournure^ in the distressed family circle. Under a like 
half-delusion, Mr. Jos Larkin, in the guise of charity, 
was prosecuting his designs upon the Vicar's reversion, 



326 WYLDER'S HAJVJ). 

and often most cruelly and most artfully, when he frankly 
fancied his conduct most praiseworthy. 

And really I do not myself know, 'that, considering 
poor William's liabilities and his means, and how many 
chances there were against that reversion ever becoming a 
fact, that I would not myself have advised his selling it^ ^ 
if a reasonable price were obtainable. 

The poor Vicar and his little following were got pretty 
well into the Furcse Caudinse. Mr. Jos Larkin, if he did 
not march him out, to do him justice, had had no hand in 
primarily bringing him there. There was no reason, how- 
ever, why the respectable lawyer should not make whatever 
was to be fairly made of the situation. The best thing 
for both was, perhaps, that the one should sell and the 
other buy the reversion. Larkin had no apprehensions 
about the nature of the dealing. I think it was Lawyer 
Larkin's private canon, in his dealings with men, that 
everything was moral that was not contrary to an Act of 
Parliament. 



CHAPTER LIII. 

BRANDON CHAPEL ON SUNDAY. 

For a month and three days Mr. Jos Larkin was left 
to ruminate without any new light upon the dusky land- 
scape now constantly before his eyes. At ,the end of that 
time a foreign letter came for him to the Lodge. It was 
not addressed in Mark "Wylder's hand— not the least like 
it. Mark's was a bold, free hand, and if there was noth- 
ing particularly elegant, neither was there anything that 



WELDER'S HA JVC. 327 

could be called vulgar in it. But this was a decidedly 
villainous scrawl. There was nothing! impressed on the 
Wiifer, but a poke of something like the ferrule of a 
stick. 

The interior corresponded with the address, and the 
lines slanted confoundedly. It was, however, on the 
whole, better spelled and expressed than the penmanship 
would have led one to expect. It said — 

"Mister Lakkins, — Respeckted sir, I write you, sir, 
to let you know has how there is no more Chance you 
shud ear of poor Mr. Mark Wylder — of hose orrible 

Death I make bold to aquainte you by this writing 

which is Secret has yet from all — he bing Hid, and made 
away with in the dark. It is only Right is family shud 
know all, and is sad ending — wich I will tell before you, 
sir, in full, accorden to my Best guess, as bin the family 
Lawyer (and, sir, you will find it useful to Tell this in 
_ secret to Capten Lake, of Brandon Hall — But not on 
No account to any other). It is orrible, sir, to think a 
young gentleman, with everything the world can give, 
shud be made away with so creweLin the dark. Though 
you do not rekelect me, sir, I know you well, Mr. Lar- 
kins, haven seen you hoifen when a boy. I wud not wish, 
sir, no noise made till I cum — which I am returning 
hoame, and will then travel to Gylingden strateways to 
see you. Sir, your obedient servant, 

" James Button." 

This epistle disturbed Mr. Jos Larkin profoundly. He 
could recollect no such name as James Dutton. He did 
not know whether to believe this letter or not. He could 
not decide what present use to make of it, nor whether 
to mention it to Captain Lake ; nor if he did so, how it 
was best to open the matter. 



B28 WYLJDER'S HAJVD. 

If this letter was true there was not a momeitt to be 
lost in bringing the purchase of the Vicar's reversion to a 
point. The possibilities were positively dazzling. They 
were worth risking something. 

Now, under the pressure of this enquiry, a thing struck 
Mr. Larkin, strangely enough, which he had quite over- 
looked before. There were certain phrases in the will of 
the late Mr. Wylder which limited a large portion of the 
great estate in strict settlement. Of course an attorney's 
opinion upon a question of real property is not conclusive. 
Still they can't help knowing something of the barrister's 
special province ; and these words were very distinct — 
in fact, they stunted down the Vicar's reversion in the 
greater part of the property to a strict life estate. 

Long did the attorney pore over his copy of the will, 
with his finger and thumb closed on his under lip. The 
language was quite explicit — there was no way out of 
it. It was strictly a life estate. How could he have' 
overlooked that? His boy, indeed, would take an estate, 
tail — and could disentail whenever — if-ever — he came 
of age. But that was in the clouds. Mackleston-on-the 
Moor, however, and the Great Barnford estate, were un- 
affected by these limitations ; and the rental which he 
now carefully consulted, told him these jointly were in 
round numbers worth 2,300/. a year, and improvable. 

This letter of Button's, to be sure, may turn out to b/3 
all a lie or a blunder. But it may prove to be strictly 
true ; and in that case jt will be every thing that the 
deed should be executed and the purchase completed be- 
fore the arrival of this person, and the public notification 
of Mark Wylder's death. 

Another thought now struck him for the first time. 
Was there no mode of " hedging," so that whether Mark 
Wylder were living or diead the attorney should stand to 
win ? 



WYLDER'S HJiJVD. 329 

Down came the Brandon boxes. The prudent attor- 
ney turned the key in the door, and forth came the vol- 
uminous marriage settlement of Stanley Williams Lake, 
of Slobberligh, in the county of Devon, late Captain, &c. 
&c. of the first part, and Dorcas Adderley Brandon, of 
Brandon Hall, in the county of &c. &c. of the second part, 
and so forth. And as he read this pleasant composition 
through, he two or three times murmured approvingly, 
"Yes — yes — yes." His recollection had served him 
quite rightly. There was the Five Oaks estate, special- 
ly excluded from settlement, worth 1,400^. a year ; but 
it was conditioned that the said Stanley Williams Lake 
was not to deal with the said lands, except with the con- 
sent in writing of the said Dorcas, &c. who was to be a 
consenting party to the deed. 

If there was really something " unsound in the state 
of Lake's relations," and that he could be got to consider 
Lawyer Larkin as a friend worth keeping, that estate 
might be had a .bargain — yes, a great bargain. 

Larkin walked oflF to Brandon, but there he learned 
that Captain Brandon Lake, as he now chose to call him- 
self, had gone that morning to London. 

" Business, I venture to say, and he went into that 
electioneering without ever mentioning it either." 

That night he posted a note to Burlington, Smith, and 
Co. and by Saturday night's post there came down to the 
sheriff an execution for 123/. and some odd shillings, upon 
a judgment on a warrant to confess, at the suit of that 
firm, for costs and money advanced, against the poor Vi- 
car, who never dreamed, as he conned over his next day's 
si^rmon with his solitary candle, that the blow had virtually 
descended, and that his homely furniture, together ■?^th 
his own thin person, had passed into- the hands of Messrs. 
Burlington, Smith, and Co. 



330 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

The Vicar on his way to the chapel passed Mr. Jos 
Larkin on the green — not near enough to speak — only 
to smile and wave his hand kindly, and look after the good 
attorney with one of those yearning, grateful looks, which 
cling to straws upon the drowning stream of life. 

The sweet chapel bell was just ceasing to toll as Mr. 
Jos Larkin stalked under the antique ribbed arches of the 
little isle. Slim and tall, he glided, a chastened dignity 
in his long upturned countenance, and a faint halo of 
saint-hood round his tall bald head. Having whispered 
his orisons into his well-brushed hat, and taken his seat, 
his dove-like eyes rested for a moment upon the Brandon 
seat. 

There was but one figure in it — slender, light-haired, 
with his yellow moustache and pale face, grown of late a 
little fatter. Captain Brandon Lake was a very punctual 
church-goer since the idea of trying the county at the next 
election had entered his mind. Dorcas was not very well. 
Lord Chelford had taken his departure. There was no guest 
just then at Brandon, and the Captain sat alone on that 
devotional dais, the elevated flpor of the great oaken Bran- 
don seat. 

When the service was over Stanley Lake walked up the 
little isle toward the communion table, thinking, and took 
hold of the railing that surrounded the brass monument 
of Sir William de Braundon, and seemed to gaze intently 
on the eflSgy, but was really thinking profoundly of other 
matters, and once or twice his sly sidelong glance stole 
ominously to Jos Larkin, who was talking at the church 
door with the good Vicar. 

In- fact, he was then and there fully apprising him of 

.his awful situation; and poor William Wylder looking 

straight at him, with white face and damp forehead, was 

listening, stunned, and hardly understanding a word he 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 331 

said, and only the dreadful questions rising to his mouth, 
" Can anything be done ! Will the people come to- 
day?" 

Mr. Larkin explained the constitutional respect for the 
Sabbath. 

" It would be better, sir — the publicity of an arrest " 
(it was a hard word to utter) " in the town would be very 
painful — it would be better, I think, that I should walk 
over to the prison — it is only six miles — and see the 
authorities there, and give myself up." 

And his lip quivered ; he was thinking of the leave- 
taking — of poor Dolly and little Fairy. 

" I've a great objection to speak of business to-day," 
said Mr. Larkin, holily; "but I may mention that Bur- 
lington and Smith have written very sternly ; and the 
fact is, my dear sir, we must look the thing straight in the 
face ; they are determined to go through with it ; and you 
know my opinion all along about the infatuation of hesi- 
tating about the sale of that miserable reversion, which 
they could have disposed of on fair terms. In fact, sir, 
they look upon it that you don't wan't to pay them, and, 
of course, they are very angry." 

" I'm sure I was wrong. I'm such a fool ! " 

"I must only go to the Sheriff the first thing in the 
morning, and beg of him to hold over that thing, you 
know, until I have heard from Burlington and Smith ; 
and I suppose I may say to them that you see the neces- 
sity of disposing of the reversion, and agree to sell it if it 
be not too late." 

The Vicar assented ; indeed, he had grown, under this 
urgent pressure, as nervously anxious to sell as he bad 
been to retain it." 

"I'll be very happy to see you to-morrow, if you can 
conveniently look in — say at twelve, or half-past, to re- 
port progress." 



332 WYLDER'S HAJVJ). 

So that was arranged ; and again in the illusive sense 
of deliverance, the poor Vicar's hopes brightened and ex- 
panded. 



CHAPTER LIV. 

THE CAPTAIN AND THE ATTORNEY CONVERSE AMONG 
THE TOMBS. 

I CANNOT tell whether that slender, silken machinator, 
Captain Lake, loitered in the chapel for the purpose of 
talking to or avoiding Jos Larkin, who was standing at 
the doorway, in sad but gracious converse with the Vicar. 

He was certainly observing him from among the tombs 
in his sly way. And the attorney, who had a way, like 
him, of noting things without appearing to see them, was 
conscious of it, and was perhaps decided by this trifle to ac- 
cost the gallant Captain. 

So he glided up the short aisle with a sad religious 
smile, suited to the place, and inclined his lank back and 
his tall bald head toward the Captain in ceremonious 
greeting, as he approached. 

'' Beautiful chapel this. Captain Lake — beautiful chap- 
el, sir," said the attorney. But though his accents were 
engaging and he smiled — of course, a Sabbath-day smile 
— yet Captain Lake perceived that it was not the dove's 
but the rat's eyes that were doing duty under that tall 
bald brow. 

"^Solemn thoughts, sir — solemn thoughts, Captain 
Lake — silent mentors, eloquent monitors ! " And he 
waved his long lank hand toward the monumental groups. 

"Yes," said Lake, in the same mocking tone, that wao 



WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 333 

low and sweet, and easily mistaken for something more 
amiable. " You and they go capitally together — so sol- 
emn, and eloquent, and godly — capital fellows ! I'm not 
half good enough for such company — and the place is 
growing rather cold — is it not ? " 

"A great many Wylders, sir — a great many Wyl- 
ders." And the attorney dropped his voice, and paused 
at this emphasis, pointing a long finger toward the sur- 
rounding effigies. 

Captain Lake, after his custom, glared a single full 
look upon the attorney, sudden as the flash of a pair of 
guns from their embrasures in the dark ; and he said qui- 
etly, with a wave of his cane in the same direction — 

" Yes, a precious lot of Wylders." 

" Is there a Wylder vault here, Captain Brandon 
Lake?" 

" Hanged if I know ! — what the devil's that to you or 
me. sir?" answered the Captain, with a peevish suUen- 
ness. 

"J was thinking, Captain Lake, whether in the event 
of its turning out that Mr. Mark Wylder was dead, it 
would be thought proper to lay his body here ? " 

" Dead, sir ! — and what the plague puts that in your 
head ? You ,are corresponding with him — arn't you ? " 

" I'll tell you exactly how that is, Captain Lake. 
May I take the liberty to ask you for one moment to look 
up." 

As between these two gentlemen, this, it must be al- 
lowed, was an impertinent request. But Captain Lake 
did look up, and there was something extraordinarily un- 
pleasant in his yellow eyes, as he fixed them upon the 
contracted pupils of the attorney, who, nothing daunted, 
went on — 

" Pray, excuse me ^- thank you, Captain Lake — they 



334 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

say one is better beard -when looked at than when not 
seen ; and I wish to speak rather low, for reasons." 

Each looked the other in the eyes, with that uncertain 
and sinister gaze which has a character both of fear and 
menace. 

"I have received those letters, CaptOiin Lake, of* which 
I spoke to you when I last had the honour of seeing you, 
as furnishing grave matter of suspicion, since when I 
have not received one with Mr. Wylder's signature. But 
I have received, only the other day, a letter from a new 
correspondent — a person signing himself James Dutton 

— announcing his belief that Mr. Mark Wylder is dead 

— is dead — and has been made away with by foul means ; 
and I have arranged to meet him professionally, and to 
hear the entire narrative, both of what he knows and of 
what he suspects." 

As Jos LarTiin delivered this with stern features and 
emphasis, the Captain's countenance underwent such a 
change as convinced the attorney that some indescribable 
evil had befallen Mark Wylder, and that Captain Bran- 
don Lake had a guilty knowledge thereof. With this 
conviction came a sense of superiority and a pleasant con- 
fidence in his position, which betrayed itself in a slight 
frown and a pallid smile, as he looked steadily in the 
young man's face, with his small, crafty, hungry eyes. 

Lake knew that his face had betrayed him. He had 
felt the livid change of color, and that twitching at his 
mouth and cheek which he could not control. He ground 
his teeth, and returned Jos Larkin's intimidating smirk 
with a look of fury, which — for he now believed he held 
the winning cards — did not -appal him. 

" Jou know, sir," said Captain Lake, but a little husk- 
ily, turning about and smiling at last, " that Mark Wyl- 
der is nothing to me. We don't correspond : we have 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 335 

not corresponded.' I know — upon my honor and soul, 
sir — nothing on earth about him — what he's doing, 
where he is, or what's become of him. But I can't hear 
a man of business like you assert, upon whq,t he con- 
ceives to be reliable information, that Mark Wylder is no 
more, without being a good deal shocked." 

" I quite understand, sir — quite, Captain Lake. It is 
very serious, sir, very ; but I can't believe it has gone 
that length, quite. I shall know more, of course, when 
I've seen James Dutton. I can't think, I mean, he's been 
made away with in that sense ; nor how that could benefit 
anyone ; and I'd much rather. Captain Lake, move in this 
matter — since move I must — in your interest — I mean, 
as your friend and man of business — than in any way. 
Captain Lake, that might possibly involve you in trou- 
ble." 

" You are my man of business — aren't you ? and have 
no grounds for ill-will — eh ? " said the Captain, drily. 

"No ill- will, certainly — quite the reverse. Thank 
Heaven, I think I may truly say, I bear ill-will to no man 
living ; and wish you, Captain Lake, nothing but good, 
sir — nothing but good." 

" Except a hasty word or two, I know no reason you 
should not," said the Captain, in the same tone. 

" Quite so. But, Captain Brandon Lake, there is 
nothing like being completely above-board — it has been 
my rule through life ; and I will say — that I have of 
late been anything but satisfied with the position which, 
ostensibly your professional adviser and confidential man 
of business, I have occupied. Has there been any real 
confidence. Captain Lake, upon your part? You have 
certainly had relations with Mr. Mark Wylder — corres- 
pondence, for anything I know. You have entertained 
the project of purchasing the Reverend William Wjlder's 



336 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

reversion ; and you have gone into electioneering busi- 
ness, and formed connections of that sort, without once 
doing me the honor to confer with me on the subject. 
Now, the plain question is, do you wish to retain my 
services ? " 

" Certainly," said Captain Lake, biting his lip, with a 
sinister little frown. 

" Then, Captain Lake, you must dismiss at once from 
your mind the idea that you can do so upon the terms you 
have of late seen fit to impose. I am speaking frankly 
when I say there must be a total change. I must be in 
reality what I am held out to the world as being — your 
trusted, and responsible, and sole adviser. I don't aspire 
to the position — I am willing at this moment to retire 
from it ; but I never yet knew a divided direction come to 
good. It is an office of great responsibility, and I for one 
will not consent to touch it on any other conditions than 
those I have taken the liberty to mention. 

" These are easily complied with — in fact I undertake 
to show you they have never been disturbed," answered 
Lake, rather sullenly. " So that being understood — eh ? 
— I suppose we have nothing particular to add ? " 

And Captain Lake extended his gloved hand to take 
leave. 

But the attorney looked down and then up, with a sha- 
dow on his face, and his lip in his finger and thumb, 
and he said — 

" That's all very well, and a sine qua non, so far as it 
goes ; but, my dear Captain Lake, let us be plain. You 
must see, my dear sir, with such rumors, possibly about 
to get afloat, and such persons about to appear, as this 
James Button, that matters are really growing critical, and 
there's no lack of able solicitors who would, on speculation, 
undertake a suit upon less evidence, perhaps, than may bo 



WTLDER'S HAjYD. 337 

forthcoming, to upset your title, under the -vvill, through 
Mrs. Dorcas Brandon Lake — your joint title — in favor 
of the reversioner." 

Lake only bit hjs lip and shook his head. The attorney 
knew, however, that the danger was quite appreciated, and 
went on — 

"You will, therefore, want a competent man — who 
has the papers at his fingers' ends, and knows how to deal 
ably — ably^ sir, with a fellow of James Button's stamp 
— at your elbow. The fact is, to carry you safely 
through you will need pretty nearly-the undivided atten- 
tion of a well-qualified, able, and confidential practitioner ; 
and I need not say, such a man is not to be had for noth- 
ing." 

Lake nodded a seeming assent, which seemed to say, " I 
have found it so." 

" Now, my dear Captain Lake, I just mention this — I 
put it before you — that is, because you know the county 
is not to be contested for nothing — and you'll want a very 
serious sum of money for the purpose, and possibly a 
petition — and I can, one way or another, make up, with 
an efibrt, about .£15,000. Now it strikes me that it 
would be the wisest thing, perhaps, my dear Captain Lake, 
you ever did, to place me in the same boat with yourself." 

" I don't exactly see." 

" I'll make it quite clear." The attorney's tall fore- 
head had a little pink flush over it at this moment, and 
he was looking down a little and poking the base of Sir 
William de Braundon's monument with the point of his 
umbrella. " I wish, Captain Lake, to be perfectly frank, 
and, as I said, above-board. You'll want the money, and 
you must make up your mind to sell Five Oaks." 

Captain Lake shifted his foot, as if he had found it on 

a sudden on a hot flag. 
16 



838 WYLDER'S HAND. 

"Sell Five Oaks — that's fourteen hundred a year," 
said he. 

" Hardly so much, but nearly, perhaps." 

" Forty- three thousand pounds were offered for it. Old 
Chudworth offered that about ten years ago." 

" Of course, Captain Lake, if you are looking for a 
fancy price from me I must abandon the idea. I was 
merely supposing a dealing between friends, and in that 
sense I ventured to name the extreme limit to which I 
could go. Little more than five per cent, for my money, 
if I insure — and possibly to defend an action before I've ■ 
been six months in possession. I think my offer will 
strike ,you as a great one, considering the posture of 
affairs. Indeed, I apprehend, my friends will hardly think 
me justified in offering so much." 

The ice once broken, Jos Larkin urged his point with 
all sorts of arguments, always placing the proposed trans- 
action in the most plausible lights and attitudes, and 
handling his subject in round and flowing sentences. This 
master of persuasion was not aware that Captain Lake 
was arguing the question for himself, on totally different 
grounds, and that it was fixed in his mind pretty much in 
those terms : — 

" That old villain wants an exorbitant bribe — is he 
worth it ? " 

He knew what the lawyer thought he did not know — 
that Five Oaks was held by the lawyers to be possibly 
without those unfortunate limitations which affected all 
the rest of the estate. It was only a moot-point ; but the 
doubt had led Mr. Jos Larkin to the selection 

" I'll look in upon you between eight and nine in the 
morning, and I'll say yes or no then," said the Captain, 
as they parted under the old stone porch, the attorney 
with a graceful inclination, a sad smile, and a wave of 



WTLDER'S HAjVD. 339 

his hand — the Captain with his hands in the pockets of 
his loose coat, and a sidelong glance from his yellow eyes. 



CHAPTER LV. 

THE BKANDON CONSERVATOET. 

Captain Lake did look in at the Lodge in the morn- 
ing, and remained an hour in conference with Mr. Jos 
Larkin. I suppose everything went off pleasantly. For 
although Stanley Lake looked very pale and vicious as he 
walked down to the iron gate of the Lodge, the good at- 
torney's countenance shone with a serene and heavenly 
light, so pure and bright, indeed, that I almost wonder 
his dazzled servants, sitting along the wall while he read 
and expounded that morning, did not respectfully petition . 
that a veil might be suspended over the seraphic efful- 
gence. 

Somehow his " Times " did not interest him at breakfast ; 
these parliamentary wrangles, commercial speculations, and 
foreign disputes, are they not, after all, but melancholy 
and dreary records of the merest worldliness ? Jos Lar- 
kin tossed the paper upon the sofa. French politics, 
relations with Russia, commercial treaties, party combina- 
tions, how men can so wrap themselves up in these things ! 
And he smiled ineffable pity over the crumpled newspaper 
— on the poor souls in that sort of worldly limbo. In 
which frame of mind he took from his coat pocket a copy 
of Captain Lake's marriage settlement, and read over 
again a covenant on the Captain's part that, with respect 
to this particular estate of Five Oaks, he would do no act, 



340 • WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

and execute no agreement, deed, or other instrument what- 
soever, in any wise affecting the same, without the consent 
in \^iting of the said Dorcas Brandon ; and a second cov- 
enant binding him and the trustees of the settlement against 
executing any deed, &c. without a similar consent ; and 
specially directing, that in the event of alienating the 
estate, the said Dorcas must be made an assenting party to 
the deed. 

He folded the deed, and replaced it in his pocket with 
a peaceful smile and closed eyes, murmuring — 

" I'm much mistaken if the grey mare's the better 
horse in that stud." 

He laughed gently, thinking of the Captain's formida- 
ble and unscrupulous nature, exhibitions of which he 
could not fail to remember. 

" No, no. Miss Dorkie won't give us much trouble." 

He used to call her " Miss Dorkie," playfully, to his 
clerks. It gave him consideration, he fancied. And now 
with this Five Oaks to begin with — 1,400^. a year — a 
great capability, immensely improvable, he would stake 
half he's worth on making it more than 2,000^. within 
five years ; and with other things at his back, an able man 
like him might before long look as high as she. And 
visions of the grand jury rose dim and splendid — an 
heiress, and a seat for the county ; perhaps he and Lake 
might go in together, though he'd rather be associated 
with the Hon. James Cluttworth, or young Lord Griddle- 
stone. Lake, you see, wanted weight, and, notwithstand- 
ing his connections, was a new man in the county. 

Jos Larkin had also the Vicar's business and reversion 
to attend to. The Rev. William Wylder had a letter 
containing three lines from him at eight o'clock, to which 
he sent an answer ; whereupon the solicitor despatched a 
special messenger to Dollington, with a letter to the 



WyLDER'S HjiJVD. 341 

sheriff's deputy, from -whom he received duly a reply, 
which necessitated a second letter with a formal undertak- 
ing, to which came another reply ; whereupon he wrote to 
Burlington, Smith, and Co. acquainting them respectfully, 
in diplomatic fashion, with the attitude which affairs had 
assumed. 

With this went a private and confidential, non-ofiBcial, 
note to Smith, desiring him to answer stiffly and press for 
an immediate settlement, and to charge costs fairly, as 
Mr. William Wylder would have ample funds to liquidate 
them. Smith knew what fairly meant, and his entries 
went down accordingly. By the same post went up to 
the same firm a proposition — an after thought — sanc- 
tioned by a second miniature correspondence with his cli- 
ent, to guarantee them against loss consequent against 
staying the execution in the sheriff's hands for a fortnight, 
which, if they agreed to, they were further requested to 
send a draft of the proposed undertaking by return, at 
foot of which, in pencil, he wrote, " N. B. — Yes." 

This arrangememt necessitated his providing himself 
with a guarantee from the Vicar ; and so the little account 
as between the Vicar and Jos Larkin, solicitor, and the 
Vicar and Messrs. Burlington, Smith, and Co. solicitors, 
grew up and expanded with a tropical luxuriance. 

About the same time — while Mr. Jos Larkin, I mean, 
was thinking over Miss Dorkie's share in the deed, with a 
complacent sort of interest, anticipating a struggle, but 
sure of victory — that beautiful young lady was walking 
slowly from flower to flower, in the splendid conservatory 
which projects southward from the house. The unspeak- 
able sadness of wounded pride was on her beautiful fea- 
tures, and there was a fondness in the gesture with which 
she laid her fingers on these exotics and stooped over 
them, which gave to her solitude a sentiment of the pa- 
thetic. 



342 WYLSER'S HjIJVD. 

From the high glass doorway, communicating with the 
drawing-rooms, at the far end, over the encaustic tiles, and 
through this atmosphere of perfume, did Captain Stanley 
Lake, in his shooting coat, glide, smiling, towards his beau- 
tiful young wife. 

She heard the door close, and looking half over her 
shoulder in a low tone indicating surprise, she merely 
said : 

" Oh ! " receiving him with a proud, sad look. 

"Yes, Dorkie, I'm here at last. I've been for some 
weeks so insufferably busy," and he laid his white hand 
lightly over his eyes, as if they and the brain within were 
alike weary. " How charming this place is — the temple 
of Flora, and you the divinity ; " 

And he kissed her cheek. 

" I'm now emancipated for, I hope, a week or two. I've 
been shut up so in the library, and keeping such tiresome 
company — you've no idea ; but I think you'll say it was 
time well spent, at least I'm sure you'll approve the re- 
sult ; and now that I have collected the facts, and can 
show you, darling, exactly what the chances are, you must 
consent to hear the long story, and when you have heard, 
give me your advice." 

Dorcas smiled, and only plucked a little flowery ten- 
dril from a plant that hung in a natural festoon above 
her. 

" I assure you, darling, I am serious ; you must not 
look so incredulous ; and it is the more provoking, because 
I love you so. I think I have a right to your advice, 
Dorkie." 

" Why don't you ask Rachel, she's cleverer than I, and 
you are more in the habit of consulting her? " 

" Now Dorkie is going to talk her wicked nonsense 
over again, as if I had never answered it. What about 



WVLDER'S HAJVD. 343 

Radie ? I do assure you, so far from taking her advice, 
and thinking her an oracle, as you suppose, I believe her 
in some respects very little removed from a fool." 

"/think her very clever, on the contrary," said Dor- 
cas, enigmaticafly." 

" Well, she is clever in some respects ; she is gay, at 
least she used to be, before she fell into that transcenden- 
tal parson's hands — I mean poor dear William Wylder ; 
and she can be amusing, and talks very vrell, but she has 
no sense — she is utterly Quixotic — she is no more capa- 
ble of advising than a child." 

" I should not have fancied that, although you say so, 
Stanley," she answered carelessly, adding a geranium to 
her bouquet. 

" You are thinking, I know, because you have seen us 
once or twice talking together " — 

Stanley paused, not knowing exactly how to construct 
the remainder of his sentence. 

Dorcas added another blossom. 

" But when you saw Rachel and me talking together, 
continued Stanley," " or rather Rachel talking to me, I do 
assure you, Dorcas, upon my sacred honor, one half of 
what she said I do not to this moment comprehend, and 
the whole was based on the most preposterous blunder ; 
and I will tell you in a little time everything about it. I 
would this moment — I'd be delighted — only just until 
I have got a letter which I expect — a letter, I assure you, 
nothing more — and until I have got it, it would be simply 
to waste your time and patience to weary you with any 
such — any such " — 

" Secret," said Dorcas. 

"Secret, then, if you will have it so," retorted Stan- 
ley, suddenly, with one of those glares that lasted for 
just one fell moment ; but he instantly recovered himself. 



344 wrLDER's H.dj\rjo. 

"Secret — yes — but no secret in the evil sense — a 
secret onjj awaiting the evidence which I daily expect, 
and then to be stated fully and frankly to you, my only 
darling, and as completely blown to the winds." 

Dorcas looked in his strange face with her proud, sad 
gaze, like one guessing at a funereal allegory. 

He kissed her cheek again, placing one arm round her 
slender waist, and with his other hand taking hers. 

"Yes, Dorcas, my beloved, my only darling, you will 
yet know all it has cost me to retain from you even this 
folly ; and when you have heard all — you will thank me 
for having braved your momentary displeasure, to spare 
you a great deal of useless and miserable suspense. I 
trust you, Dorcas, in everything implicitly. Why won't 
you credit what I say ? " 

"I don't urge you — I never have — to reveal that 
which you describe so strangely as a concealment, yet no 
secret ; as an absurdity, and vet fraught with miserable 
suspense." 

" Ah, Dorcas, why will you misconstrue me ? I long 
to tell you this, which, after all, is an utter absurdity, a 
thousand times more than you can desire to hear it ; but 
my doing so now, unfortified by the evidence I shall have 
in a very few days, would be attended with a danger 
which you will then understand. Won't you trust me ? " 
" And now for my advice," said Dorcas, smiling down 
in her mysterious way upon a crimson exotic near her feet. 
" Yes, darling, thank you. In sober earnest, your ad- 
vice," answered Lake ; " and you must advise me. Sev- 
eral of our neighbors — the Hillyards, the Ledwiches, the 
Wyndermeres, and ever so many more — have spoken to 
me very strongly about contesting the county, on the old 
Whig principles, at the election which is now imminent. 
Now, you know what even moderate success in the House, 



WYLDER'S HJJVD. 345 

when family and property go together, may accomplish. 
There are the Dodminsters. Do you think they, would 
ever have got their title by any other means ? There 
are the Forresters " — 

" I know it all, Stanley ; and at once I say, go on. I 
thought you must have formed some political project, 
Mr. Wealdon has been with you so often ; but you tell 
me nothing, Stanley."- 

"Not, darling, till I know it myself. This plan, for 
instance, until you spoke this moment, was but a ques- 
tion, and one which I could not submit until I had seen 
Wealdon, and heard how matters stood, and what chances 
of success I should really have. So, darling, you have it 
all ; and I am so glad you advise me to go on. It is 
five-and-thirty _years since anyone connected with Bran- 
don came forward^ But it will cost a great deal of money, 
Dorkie." 

" Yes, I know. I've always heard it cost my uncle 
and Sir William Camden fifteen thousand pounds." 

"Yes, it will be expensive, Wealdon thinks — very, 
this time. It often struck me as~a great mistake, that, 
where there is a good income, and a position to be main- 
tained, there is not a little put by every year to meet 
cases like this." 

" I do not think there is much money. You know, 
Stanley." 

" Whatever there is, is under settlement, and we can- 
not apply it, Dorkie. The only thing to be done, it 
strikes me, is to sell a part of Five Oaks." 

" I'll not sell any property, Stanley." 

" And what do you propose, then ? " . .,, 

" I don't know. I don't understand these things. But 
there are ways of getting money by mortgages and loans, 
and paying them off without losing the property." 



346 WYLDER'S HA^D. 

" I've the greatest possible objection to raising money 
in that -way. It is in fact the first step towards ruin; 
and nobody has ever done it who has not regretted that he 
did not sell instead." 

" I won't sell Five Oaks, Stanley," said the young lady, 
seriously. 

" I only said a part," replied Stanley. 

" I tell you, Stanley, plainly, I will not sell at all. 
The Brandon estate shall not be diminished in my time." 

" Why, don't you perceive you impair the estate as 
much by mortgaging as by selling, with ten times the ul- 
timate danger. I tell you /won't mortgage, and you 
shall sell." 

" Stanley, I tell you plainly once more, I never will 
consent to sell one acre of the Brandon estates." 

" Then we'll see what I can do without you, Dorkie," 
he said, in a pleasant, musing way. 

He was now looking down, with his sly, malign smile ; 
and Dorcas could almost fancy two yellow lights reflected 
upon the floor. 

" I shall protect the property of my family, sir, from 
your folly or your machinations ; and I shall write to 
Chelford, as my trustee, to come here to advise me." 

" And I snap my fingers at you both, and meet you 
with defiance ; " and Stanley's singular eyes glared upon 
her for a few seconds." 

Dorcas turned in her grand way, and walked slowly to- 
wards the door. 

" Stay a moment, I"m going," said Stanley, overtaking 
and confronting her near the door. "I've only one word. 
I don't think you quite know me. It will be an evil day 
for you, Dorkie, when you quarrel with me." 

He looked steadily on her, smiling for a second or two 
more, and then glided from the conservatory. 



CHAPTER LVI. 

CONCERNINO A NEW DANGER WHICH THREATENED CAP- 
TAIN STANLEY LAKE. 

The ambitious Captain walked out, sniffling, white, 
and incensed. There was an air of immovable resolution 
in the few words which Dorcas had spoken which rather 
took him by surprise. The Captain was a terrorist. He 
acted instinctively on the theory that any good that was 
to be got from human beings was to be extracted from 
their fears. He had so operated on Mark Wylder ; and 
so sought to coerce his sister Rachel. He had hopes, too, 
of ultimately catching the good attorney napping, although 
he was himself just now in jeopardy from that quarter. 
James Dutton, too. Sooner or later he would get Master 
Jim into a fix, and hold him also spell-bound in the same 
sort of nightmare. 

But Stanley Lake's plans were frustrated occasionally 
by his temper, which, I am afraid, with all its external 
varnish, was of the sort which is styled diabolical. Peo- 
ple said also, what is true of most terrorists, that he was 
himself quite capable of being frightened ; and jilso, that 
he lied with too fertile an audacity : and, like a man with 
too many bills afloat, forgot his endorsements occasionally, 
and did not recognise his own acceptances when presented 
after an interval. Such were some of this dangerous fel- 
low's weak points. But, on the whole, it was by no 
means a safe thing to cross his path. 

He pursued his way with a vague feeling of danger and 
rage, having encountered an opposition of so much more 



348 WTLDER'S HAJVD. 

alarming a character than he bad anticipated. He had 
abundance of matter for thought and perturbation, and felt 
himself, wljen-the images of Larcom, Larkin, and Jim 
Dutton crossed the retina of his memory, some thrill of 
the fear of a terrible coercion -which he liked so well to 
practise in the case of others. 

In this mood he paced, without minding in what direc- 
tion he went, under those great rows of timber- which 
over-arch the pathway leading toward Redman's Dell — 
the path that he and Mark Wylder had trod in that misty 
moonlight walk on which I had seen them set out together. 

Before he had walked five minutes in this direction, he 
was encountered by a little girl in a cloak, who stopped 
and dropped a courtesy. The Captain stopped also, and 
looked at her with a stare which, I suppose, had some- 
thing forbidding in it, for the child was frightened. But 
the wild and menacing look was unconscious and only 
the reflection of the dark speculations and passions which 
were tumbling and breaking in his soul. 

" Well, child," said he, gently, " I think I know your 
face, but I forget your name." 

" Little Margery, please sir, from Miss Lake at Eed- 
man's Farm," she replied, with a courtesy. 

" Oh ! to be sure, yes. And how is Miss Rachel ? " 

"Very bad with a headache, please, sir." 

" Is she at home ? " 

" Yes, sir, please." 

" Any message? " 

" Yes, sir, please — a note for you, sir ; " and she 
produced a note, rather, indeed, a letter. 

" She desired me, sir, please, to give it into your own 
hand, if I could, and not to leave it, please, sir, unless 
you were at home when I reached. 

He read the direction, and dropped it unopened into 



WYLDER'S HJJVn. 349 

the pocket of his shooting coat. The peevish glance with 
which he eyed it betrayed a presentiment of something 
unpleasant. 

" Any answer required? " 

" No,^sir, please — only to leave it." 

" Very well ; that's all. Say I am sorry to hear she 
is suffering ; and, if I can find time, I hope to see her to- 
day ; -and remember to say I have not read her letter, but 
if I find it requires an answer, it shall have one." 

He looked round, like a man newly-awakened, and up 
among the great boughs and interlacing foliage of the 
noble trees, and the child made him two courtesies, and 
departed towards Redman's Farm. 

Lake sauntered back Joward the Hall. On his way, 
a rustic seat under the shadow invited him, and he sat 
down, drawing Rachel's letter from his pocket. Having 
got his cigar well lighted, he leaned, back, and broke the 
seal, and read as follows : 

" I write to you, my beloved and only brother, Stan- 
ley, in an altered state of mind, and with clearer views 
of duty than, I think, I have ever had before." 

" Just as I conjectured," muttered Stanley, with a 
bitter smile, as he shook the ashes off his cigar — "a 
woman's homily." 

He read on, and a livid frown gradually contracted his 
forehead as he did so. '. 

" I do not know, Stanley, what your feelings may be. 
Mine have been the same ever since that night in which 
I was taken into a confidence so dreadful. The circum- 
stances are fearful ; but far more dreadful to me, the mys- 
tery in which I have lived ever since. I sometimes think 
I have only myself to blame- But you know, my poor 
brother, why I consented, and with what agony. I did 
not know, until it was too late, how great was my guilt. 



350 WYLDER'S HMJVD. 

Heaven knows, when I consented to that journey, I did 
not comprehend its fulli purpose, though I knew enough 
to have warned me of my danger, and undertook it in 
great fear and anguish of mind. Oh ! Stanley, you do 
not know what it is to feel, as I do, the shame and treach- 
ery of my situation ; to try to answer the smiles of those 
who, at least, once loved me, and to take their hands ; to 
kiss Dorcas and good Dolly ; and feel that all the time I 
am a vile imposter, from whom, if they knew me, they 
would turn in. horror and disgust. Now, Stanley, I can 
bear any thing but this baseness — any thing but the life 
long practice of perfidy — that, I will not and cannot en- 
dure. Dorcas must know the whole truth. That there 
is a secret jealously guarded- from her she does know — 
no woman could fail to perceive that ; and there are 
few, Stanley, who would not prefer the certainty of 
the worst, to the anguish of such relations of mystery and 
reserve with a husband. She is clever, she is generous, 
and has many noble qualities. She will see what is right, 
and do it. Me she may hate, and must despise ; but that 
were to me more endurable than friendship gained on 
false pretences. I repeat, therefore, Stanley, that Dorcas 
must know the whole truth. Do not suppose, my poor 
brother, that I write from impulse — I have deeply 
thought on the subject." 

" Deeply," repeated Stanley, with a sneer. 

" And the more I reflect, the more am I convinced — 
if yoMwill not tell her, Stanley, that /must. But it will 
be wiser, and better, terrible as it may be, that the reve- 
lation should come from you, whom she has made her hus- 
band. Be courageous then, Stanley ; you will be happier 
when you have disclosed the truth, and released at all 
events, one of your victims. 

" Your sorrowful and only sister, 

" Rachel." 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 351 

On finishing the letter, Stanley rose quickly to his feet. 
His excitement was too intense for foul terms, or even 
blasphemy. With the edge of his nether lip nipped in 
his teeth, and his clenched hands in his pockets, he walked 
through the forest trees to the park, and in its solitudes 
harried onward as if his life depended on his speed. Grad- 
ually he recovered his self-possession. He sat down un- 
der the shade of a knot of beech trees, overlooking that 
ill-omened tarn, which we have often mentioned, upon a 
linch en-stained rock, his chin resting on his clenched hand; 
his elbow on his knee, and the heel of his other foot 
stamping out bits of the short, green sod. 

" That d — d girl deserves to be shot for her treachery," 
was the first sentence that broke from his white lips. 

The Captain's plans were not working by any means so 
smoothly as he had expected. That sudden stab from Jos 
Larkin, whom he always despised, and now hated — whom 
he believed to be a fifth-rate, pluckless rogue, without 
audacity, without invention ; whom he was on the point of 
tripping up, that he should have turned short and garotted 
the gallant Captain, was a provoking turn of fortune. 

That when a dire necessity subjugated his will, his con- 
tempt, his rage, and he inwardly decided that the attor- 
ney's extortion must be submitted to, his wife — whom he 
never made any account of in the transaction, whom he 
reckoned carelessly on turning about as he pleased, by a 
few compliments and cajoleries — should have started up, 
cold and inflexible as marble, in his path, to forbid the 
payment of the black mail, and expose him to the unascer- 
tained and formidable consequences of Dutton's story, and 
the disappointed attorney's vengeance — was another 
stroke of luck which took him altogether by suprise. 

And to crown all, Miss Radie had grown tired of keep- 
ing her own secret, and must needs bring to light the 



352 WTLDER'S HJlJ\rD. 

buried disgraces wtich all concerned were equally interest- 
ed in hiding away for ever. 

From Rachel to Dorcas, from Dorcas to the attorney, 
and from him to Dutton, and back again, he rambled in 
the infernal litany he muttered over the inauspicious tarn, 
among the enclosing banks and undulations, and solitary 
and lonely woods. 

" Lake Avernus," said a hollow voice behind him, and 
a long grisly hand was laid on his shoulder. 

A cold breath of horror crept from his brain to his 
heels, as he turned about and saw the large^ blanched 
features and glassy eyes of Uncle Lome bent over him. 

" Oh, Lake Avernus is it ? " said Lake, with an angry 
sneer, and raising his hat with a mock reverence. 

" Aye ! it is the window of hell, and the spirits in 
prison come up to see the light of it. Did you see him 
looking up ? " said Uncle Lome, with his pallid smile. 

" Oh ! of course — Napoleon Bonaparte leaning on old 
Dr. Simcock's arm," answered Lake. 

It was odd, in the sort of ghastly banter in which 
he played off this old man, how much hatred was percep- 
tible. 

"No — not he. It is Mark Wylder;" said Uncle 
Lome; "his face comes up like a white fish within a 
fathom of the top — it makes me laugh. That's the way 
they keep holiday. Can you tell by the sky when it is 
holiday in hell ? Jean." 

And he laughed, and rubbed his long fingers together 
softly. 

" Look how his nostrils go like a fish's gills. It is a 
funny way for a gentleman, and Ae's a gentleman. Every 
fool knows the Wylders are gentlemen — all gentlemen in 
misfortune. He has a brother that is walking about in 
bis coffin. Mark has no coffin ; it is all marble steps ; 



WVLDER'S HAJVD. 353 

and a wicked seraph received him, and blessed him, till his 
hair stood up. Let me whisper you." 

"No, not just at this moment, please," said Lake, 
drawing away, disgusted, from the maniacal leer and tit- 
ter of the gigantic old man. 

" Aye, aye — another time — some night there's au- 
rora borealis in the sky. You know this goes under 
ground all the way to Vallambrosa ? " 

"Thank you; I was not aware; that's very conve- 
nient. Had you not better go down to speak to your friend 
in the water ? " 

" Young man, I bless you for remembering," said Un- 
cle Lome, solemnly. Don't move, till I go down ; he's 
as easily frightened as a fish." 

Uncle Lome crept down the bank, tacking, and dodging, 
and all the time laughing softly to himself ; and some- 
times winking" with a horrid, wily grimace at Stanley, who 
fervently wished him at the bottom of the tarn. 

" I say," said Stanley, addressing the keeper, whom by 
a beck he had brought to his side, " you don't allow him, 
surely, to go alone now ? " 

"No, sir — since your order, sir," said the stern, re- 
served official. 

" Nor to come into any place but this — the park, I 
mean? " 

" No, sir." 

" And do you mind, try and get him home always be- 
fore nightfall. It is easy to frighten him. Find out what 
frightens him, and do it or say it. It is dangerpus, don't 
you see ? and he might break his d — d neck any time 
among those rocks and gullies, or get away altogether 
from you in the dark." 

So the keeper, at the water's brink, joined Uncle 
Lome, who was talking, after his fashion, into the dark 



354 WVLDER'S HJlJVV. 

pool. And Stanley Lake — a general in difficulties — 
retraced his steps toward the park gate through which he 
had come, ruminating on his situation and resources. 



CHAPTER LXn. 

MISS RACHEL LAKE BECOMES VIOLENT. 

So soon as the letter which had so surprised and in- 
censed Stanley Lake was despatched, and beyond recall, 
Rachel, who had been indescribably agitated before, grew 
all at once calm. She was glad the die was cast, and that 
it was out of her power to retract. 

She kneeled at her bedside, and wept and prayed, and 
then went down and talked with old Tamar, who was knit- 
ting in the shade by the porch. 

Then the young lady put on her bonnet and cloak and 
walked down to Gylingden, with an anxious, but still a 
lighter heart to see her friend, Dolly Wylder. 

Dolly received her in a glad sort of fuss. 

" I'm so glad to see you. Miss Lake." 

" Call me Rachel ; and won't you let me call you Dol- 
ly?" 

" Well, Rachel, dear," replied Dolly, laughing, " I'm 
delighted you're come; I have such good news — but I 
can't tell it till I think for a minute — I must begin at 
the beginning." 

" Anywhere, everywhere, only if it is good news, let 
me hear it at once. I'll be sure to understand." 

" Well, miss — I mean Rachel, dear — you know — I 
may-lell you now — we've been in great trouble " — and 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 355 

she dried her eyes quickly — " money, my dear " — and 
she smiled with a bewildered shrug — " some debts at 
Cambridge — no fault of his — but these were a few old 
things that mounted up with interest, my dear — you un- 
derstand — and law costs — and indeed, dear miss — well, 
Rachel — I forgot — I sometimes thought we must be 
quite ruined." 

" Oh, Dolly, dear," said Rachel, very pale, " I feared 
it. I thought you might be troubled about money, and, 
to say truth, it was partly to try your friendship with a 
question on that very point that I came here, and in the 
hope that maybe you might allow me to be of some use." 

" How wonderfully good you are ! How friends are 
raised up ! " and with a smile that shone like an April 
sun through her tears, she stood on tiptoe, and kissed the 
tall young lady. 

" You know, dear, before he went, Mark promised to 
lend dear Willie a large sum of money. Well he went 
away in such a hurry, that he never thought of it ; and 
he keeps, you know, wandering about on the Continent, 
■ and never gives his address ; so he can't, you see, be writ- 
ten to; and the delay — but, Rachel, darling, are you 
ill ? " 

She rang the bell, and opened the window, and got 
some water. 

" My darling, you walked too fast here. You were 
very near fainting." 

" No, dear — nothing — I am quite well now — go on." 

But she did not go on immediately, for Rachel was 
trembling in a kind of shivering fit, which did not pass 
away trtl after poor Dolly, who had no other stimulant at 
command, made her drink a cup of very hot milk. 

Nearly ten minutes passed before the talk was renewed; 

" Well, now, what do you think — that good man, Mr. 



356 WTLDER'S HAJVD. 

Larkin, just as things were at the worst, found a way to 
make everything quite right again — and we'll be so hap- 
py. Like a bird I could sing, and fly almost — a foolish 
old thing — ha ! ha ! ha ! — such an old goose ! " and 
she wiped her eyes again. 

"Hush! is that Fairy? Oh, no, it is only Anne 
singing. Little man has not been well yesterday and to- 
day. He won't eat, and looks pale, but he slept very 
well, my darling man ; and Doctor Buddie kindly took 
him into his room, and examined him, and says it may 
be nothing at all, please Heaven," and she sighed, smil- 
ing still. 

" No headache or fever ? " asked Miss Lake cheerfully, 
though, she knew not why, there seemed something om- 
inous in this little ailment. 

" None at all ; oh, none, thank you ; none in the 
world. 

" Please Heaven, te'U be quite well to-morrow — the 
darling little man," said Rachel. 

" Here's Mr. Larkin ! " cried Dolly, jumping up, and 
smiling and nodding at the window to that long and natty 
apparition, who glided to the hall-door with a sad smile, 
raising his well-brushed hat as he passed. 

He was followed by a young and bilious clerk, with 
black hair and a melancholy countenance, and by old 
Buggs — '- his conducting man — always grinning, whose 
red face glared in the little garden like a great bunch of 
hollyhocks. 

"There is that awful Mr. Buggs," said Dolly, with a 
look of honest alarm. " I often wonder so Christian a 
man as Mr. Larkin can countenance him. He is hardly 
ever without a black eye. He has been three nights 
together without once putting off his clothes— ^ think of 
that ? " 



TVVLBER'S HAjYU. 357 

" They have com6 about law business, Dolly ? " en- 
quired the young lady, who had a profound, instinctive 
dread of Mr. Larkin. 

" Yes, my dear ; a most important windfall. Only for 
Mr. Larkin, it never could- have been accomplished, and, 
indeed, I don't think it would ever have been thought 
of" 

" I hope he has some one to advise him," said Miss 
Lake, anxiously. "I — I think Mr. Larkin a very cun- 
ning person ; and you know your husband does not under- 
stand business." 

"But, mj dear, he is an excellent man, and such a 
friend, and he has managed all this most troublesome 
business so delightfully. It is what they call a rever- 
sion." 

"William Wylder is not selling his reversion?" said 
Rachel, fixing a wild and startled look on her companion. 

" Yes, reversion, I am sure, is the name. And why 
not, dear ? It is most unlikely we should ever get a 
farthing of it any other way, and it will give us enough 
to make us quite happy." 

" But, my darling, don't you know the reversion under 
the will is a great fortun c. He must not think of it ; " 
and up started Eachel, and before Dolly could interpose 
or remonstrate, she had crossed the little hall, and entered 
the homely study, where the gentlemen were conferring. 

William Wylder was sitting at his desk, and a large 
sheet of law schivenery, on thick paper, with a stamp in 
the corner, was before him. The bald head of the attor- 
ney, as he leaned over him, and indicated an imaginary 
line with his gold pencil-case, was presented toward Miss 
Lake as she entered. 

The attorney had just said " there, please," in reply to 
the Vicar's question, " Where do I write my name ? " and 



358 WTLDER'S HAJVD. 

red Buggs, and the sad and bilious young gentleman, stood 
by to witness the execution of the cleric's autograph. 

" William Wylder, I am so glad I'm in time," said 
Rachel, rustling across the room. 

" There," said the attorney, very peremptorily, and 
making a little furrow in the thick paper with the seal end 
of his pencil. 

"Stop, William Wylder, don't sign; I've a word to 
say — you must pause." 

"Kit affects our business. Miss Lake, I do request 
that you address yourself to me ; if not, may I beg, Miss 
Lake, that you will defer it for a moment." 

"William Wylder, lay down that pen; as you love 
your little boy, lay it down, and hear me," continued Miss 
Lake. 

The Vicar looked at her with his eyes wide open, puz- 
zled, like a man who is not quite sure whether he may not 
be doing something wrong. 

"I — really, Miss Lake — pardon me, but this is 
very irregular, and, in fact; unprecedented ! " said Jos 
Larkin. " I think — I suppose, you can hardly be 
aware, ma'am, that I am here as the Rev. Mr. Wylder's 
confidential solicitor, acting solely for him, in a matter of - 
a strictly private nature." 

The attorney stood erect, a little flushed, with that pe- 
culiar contraction, mean and dangerous, in his eyes. 

" Now, William Wylder, you shan't sign until you 
tell me whether this is a sale of your reversion." 

The young lady had her white hand firmly pressed upon 
the spot where he was to sign, and the ring that glittered on 
her finger looked like a talisman interposing between the 
poor Vicar and the momentous act he was meditating. 

" I think. Miss Lake, it is pretty plain you are not act- 
ing for yourself here — you have been sent, ma'am," 



WYLDER'S H^JVJ). 359 

said the attorney, and speaking a little huskily and hur- 
rieply ; " I quite conceive by -whom." 

" I don't know vrhat you mean, sir," replied Miss Lake, 
with grave disdain. 

"I think it is pretty obvious, ma'am — Miss Lake, I 
beg pardon — you have had some conversation with your 
brother," answered the attorney, with a significant sneer. 

" I don't know what you mean, sir, I repeat. I've just 
heard, in the other room, from your wife, William Wyl- 
der, that you were about selling your reversion in the es- 
tates, and I want to know whether that is so ; for if it be, 
it is the act of a madman, and I'll prevent it, if I possi- 
bly can." 

" Upon my word ! possibly " — said the Vicar his eyes 
very wide open, and looking with a hesitating gaze from 
Rachel to the attorney — " there may be something in it 
which neither you nor I know ; does it not strike you — 
had we not better consider ? " 

" Consider what, sir ? " said the attorney, with a snap, 
and losing his temper somewhat. " It is simply, sir, that 
this young lady represents Captain Lake, who wishes to 
get the reversion for himself." 

" That is utterly false, sir ! " said Miss Lake, flashing 
and blushing with indignation. " You, William, are a 
gentleman and such inconceivable meanness cannot enter 
your mind." 

The attorney, with what he meant to be a polished sar- 
casm, bowed and smiled toward Miss Lake. 

" My dear Miss Lake, you quite mistake, I am persua- 
ded, my good friend Mr. Larkin ; and, indeed, I don't 
quite comprehend ; but if it were so, and that your broth- 
er really wished — do you think he does, Mr. Larkin ? — 
to buy the reversion, he might think it more valuable, 
perhaps." 

" I can say with certainty, sir, that from that quarter 



360 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

you would get nothing like what you have agreed to 
to take; and I must say, once for all, sir, that — your 
letters amount to an equitable agreement to sell, which, 
on petition, the court would compel you to do." 

" So you see, my dear Miss Lake, there is no more to 
be said," said the Vicar, with a careworn smile, looking 
upon Rachel's handsome face. 

"Eleven minutes past three," said Mr. Larkin, "and 
I've a meeting at my house at half-past : so, unless you 
complete that instrument now, I regret to say I must take 
it back unfinished, and if the consequences should pyove 
serious, I, at least, am not to blame." 

" Don't sign, I entreat, I implore of you. William 
Wylder, you shan't." 

'•' But, my dear Miss Lake, we have considered every- 
thing, and Mr. Larkin and I agree that my circumstances 
are such as to make it inevitable." 

" Really, this is child's play ; there, if you please," 
said the attorney, once more. 

Rachel Lake, during the discussion, had removed her 
hand. The faintly-traced line on which the Vicar was to 
sign was now fairly presented to him. 

" Just in your usual way," murmured Mr. Larkin. 

So the Vicar's pen was applied, but before he had time 
to trace the first letter of his name, Rachel Lake resolutely 
snatched the thick, bluish sheet of scrivenery, before him, 
and tore it across and across, with the quickness of terror, 
and in fewer seconds than one could fancy, it lay about 
the floor and grate in pieces little bigger than dominoes. 

The attorney made a hungry snatch at the paper, over 
William Wylder's shoulder, nearly bearing that gentleman 
down on his face, but his clutch fell short. 

" Hallo ! Miss Lake, ma'am — the paper ! " 

But wild words were of no avail. The whole party, 



WYLSER'S H^JVn. 361 

except Rachel, were aghast. The attorney's small eye 
glanced over the ground and hearthstone, where the bits 
were strewn. He had nothing for it but to submit to for- 
tune with his best air. 

" You are not aware, Miss Lake of the nature of your 
act, and of the consequences to which you have exposed 
yourself, madam. Your interference, your violent inter- 
ference, madam, may be attended with most serious con- 
quences to my reverend client, for which, of course, you 
constituted yourself fully responsible, when you entered 
on the course of unauthorised interference, which has re- 
sulted in destroying the articles of agreement, for his 
protection ; and retarding the transmission of the docu- 
ment, by at least four-and- twenty hours, to London. 
You may, madan, I regret to observe, have ruined my 
client." 

" Saved him, I hope." 

" And run yourself, qiadam, into a very serious-scrape." 
" Upon' that point you have said quite enough, sir. 
Dolly, William, don't look so frightened ; you'll both live 
to thank, me for this." 

Mr. Wylder, I shall have the document prepared again 
from the draft. You'll see to that, Mr. Buggs, please ; 
and perhaps it will be better that you should look in at 
the Lodge." 

When he mentioned the Lodge, it was in so lofty a way 
that a stranger would have supposed it something very 
handsome indeed, and one of the sights of the county. 

" Say, about nine o'clock to-morrow morning. Fare- 
well, Mr. Wylder, farewell. I regret the enhanced ex- 
pense — I regret the delay — I regret the risk — I re- 
gret, in fact, the whole scene. , Farewell, Mrs. Wylder." 
And with a silent bow to Rachel — perfectly polished, 

perfectly terrible — he withdrew. 
18 



362 WYLDER'S HAJVJ). 

' Oh, dear Miss Lake — Rachel, I mean — Rachel, 
dear, I hope it won't be all off. Oh, you don't know — 
Heaven only knows — the danger we are in." 

Dolly spoke quite wildly, with her hands on Rachel's 
shoulders. It was the first time she had broken down, 
the first time, at least, the Vicar had seen her anything 
but cheery, and his head sank, and it seemed as if hfs 
last light had gone out, and he was quite benighted. 

" Now, don't blame me," said Miss Lake, " and don't 
be frightened till you have heard me. Let us sit down 
here — we shan't be interrupted — and just answer your 
wretched friend, Rachel, two or three questions, and hear 
what she has to say.'' 

So, in reply to her questions, the Vicar told her frank- 
ly how he stood; and Rachel said — "Well, you must 
not think of selling your reversion. Oh ! think of your 
_little boy — think of Dolly — if you were taken away 
from her." 

" But," said Dolly, " Mr. Larkm heard from Captain 
Lake that Mark is privately married, and actually has, 
he says, a large family ; and he, you know, has letters 
from him, and Mr. Larkin thinks, knows more than any- 
one else about him ; and if that were so, none of us 
would ever inherit the property. So " — 

" Do they say that Mark is married? Nothing can 
be more false. He neither is nor ever will be married. 

If my brother dared say that in my presence, I would 
make him confess, before you, that he knows it cannot be. 
Oh ! my poor little Fairy — my poor Dolly — my poor 
good friend, "William ! What shall I say ? I am in 
great distraction of mind. Listen to me, good and kind 
as you are. You are never to call me your friend, mind 
that. I am a most unhappy creature^, forced by circum- 
stances to be your enemy, for a time — not always. You 



WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 363 

have no conception how, and may never even suspect. 
Don't ask me, but listen." 

Wonder-stricken and pained was the countenance -with 
which the Vicar gazed upon her, and Dolly looked both 
frightened and perplexed. 

" 1 have a little more than three hundred a-year. 
There is a little annuity charged on Sir Hugh Landon's 
estate, and his solicitor has written, offering me six hun- 
dred pounds for it. I will write to-night accepting that 
offer, and you shall have the money to pay those debts 
which have been pressing so miserably upon you. Dmi t 
thank — not a word — but listen. I would so like, Dol- 
ly, to come and live with you. We could unite our in- 
comes, I need only bring poor old Tamar with me, and I 
can give up Redman's Farm in September next. I should 
be so much happier ; and I think my income and yours 
joined would enable us to live without any danger of get- 
ting into debt. Will you agree to this, Dolly, dear ; and 
promise me, William Wylder, that you will think no 
more of selling that reversion, which may be the splendid 
provision of your dear little boy. Your refusal would 
almost make me mad. I would try, Dolly, to be of use. 
I think I could. Only try me." 

She fancied she saw in Dolly's face, under all her 
gratitude, some perplexity and hesitation, and feared to 
accept a decision then. So she hurried away, with a has- 
ty and kind good-bye. 

A fortnight before, I think, during Dolly's jealous fit, 
this magnificent offer of Rachel's would, notwithstanding 
the dreadful necessities of the case, have been coldly re- 
ceived by the poor little woman. But that delusion was 
quite cured now — no reserve, or doubt, or coldness left 
behind. And Dolly and the Vicar felt that Rachel's no- 
ble proposal was the making of them. 



CHAPTER LVIII. 

AN ENEMY IN EEDMAN'S DELL. 

Jos Lakkin grew more and mote uncomfortable about 
the unexpected interposition of Rachel Lake as the Tlay 
■wore on. He felt, with an unerring intuition, that the 
young lady both despised and suapedted him. He also 
knew that she was impetuous and clever, and he feared a 
fatal mischief — he could not tell exactly how — to his 
plans. 

Jim Button's letter had somehow an air of sobriety 
and earnestness, which made way with his convictions. 
His doubts and suspicions had subsided, and he now be- 
lieved, with a profound moral certainty, that Mark Wylder 
was actually dead, within the precincts of a mad-house or 
of some lawless place of detention abroad. What was 
that to the purpose ? Button might arrive at any mo- 
inent. Low fellows are always talking ; and the story 
might get abroad before the assignment of the Vicar's in- 
terest. Of course there was something speculative in 
the whole transaction, but he had made his book well, 
and by his "arrangement" with Captain Lake, which- 
ever way the truth lay, he stood to win. 

On the whole, he was not altogether sorry for the de- 
lay. Every thing worked together he knew. One or 
two covenants and modifications in the articles had struck 
him as desirable, on reading the instrument over with 
William Wylder. He also thought a larger consideration 
should be stated and acknowledged as paid, say 22,000^. 



WTLDER'S HJlJYD. 365 

The Vicar would really receive just 2,200/. ! " Coats" 
■would do something to reduce the balance, for Jos Lar- 
kin was one of those ozen who, when treading out corn, 
decline to be muzzled. The remainder was — the Vicar 
would clearly understand — one of those ridiculous ped- 
antries of law, upon which our system of crotchets and 
fictions insisted. And William Wylder, whose character, 
simply and sensitively honorable, Mr. Larkin appreciated, 
was to write to Burlington and Smith a letter, for the 
satisfaction of their speculative and nervous client, pledg- 
ing his honor, that in the event of the sale being com- 
pleted, he would never do, countenance, or permit, any act 
or proceeding whatsoever, tending on any ground to im- 
peach or invalidate the transaction. 

Now while the improved " instrument " was in prepar- 
ation, the attorney strolled down in the evening to look 
after his clerical client, and keep him '" strait " for the 
meeting at which he was to sign the articles next day^ 

It was by the drowsy faded light of a late summer's 
evening that he arrived at the quaint little parsonage. 
He maintained his character as "a nice spoken gentle- 
man," by enquiring of the maid who opened the door how 
the little boy was. " Not so well — gone to bed — but 
would be better, every one was sure, in the morning." So 
he went in and saw the Vicar, who had just returned with 
Dolly from a little ramble. 

" Well, my good invaluable friend, you will be glad — 
you will rejoice with us, I know, to learn that, after all, 
the sale of our reversion is unnecessary."' 

The attorney allowed his client to shake him by both 
hands, and he smiled a sinister congratulation as well as he 
could, grinning in reply to the Vicar's pleasant smile as 
cheerfully as was feasible, and wofully puzzled in the 
meantime. Had James Dutton arrived and announced the 



366 WYLDER'S HAJVO. 

death of Mark — no ; it could hardly be that — decency 
had not yet quite taken leave of the earth ; and stupid as 
the Vicar was, he would hardly announce the death of his 
brother to a Christian gentleman in a fashion so outra- 
geous. Had Lord Chelford been invoked, and answered 
satisfactorily ? Or Dorcas — or had Lake, the diabolical 
sneak, interposed with his long purse, and a plausible hy- 
pocrisy of kindness, to spoil Larkin's plans ? All these 
fanciful queries flitted through his brain as the Vicar's 
hands shook both his. 

After a while, Dolly assisting, and sometimes both talk- 
ing together, the story was told, Rachel blessed and pan- 
egyrised, and the attorney's congratulations challenged and 
yielded once more. But there was something not alto- 
gether joyous in Jos Larkin's countenance, which struck 
the Vicar, and he said — 

" You don't see any objection? " and paused. 

" Objection? Why, objection, my dear sir, is a strong 
word ; but I fear I do see a difficulty — in fact, several 
difficulties. Perhaps you would take a little turn on the 
green — I must call for a moment at the reading-room — 
and I'll explain. You'll forgive me, I hope, Mrs. Wylder," 
he added, with a playful condescension, " for running 
away with your husband, but only for a few minutes — 
ha, ha ! " 

The shadow was upon Jos Larkin's face, and he was 
plainly meditating a little uncomfortably, as they ap- 
proached the quiet green of Gylingden. 

" The ofier," said the attorney, beginning rather ab- 
ruptly, " is no doubt a handsome offer at the first glance, 
and it may be well meant. But the fact is, my dear Mr. 
Wylder, six hundred pounds would leave little more than 
a hundred remaining after Burlington and Smith have had 
their costs. You have no idea of the expense and trouble 
of title, and the inevitable costliness, my dear sir, of all 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 367 

conveyancing operations. The deeds, I have little doubt, 
have been prepared — that is, in draft, of course — and 
then, my dear sir, I need not remind you, that there re- 
main the costs to me — those, of course, await your en- 
tire convenience — but still they should be forgotten in 
the general adjustment of your affairs, which I understand 
you to propose." 

The Vicar's countenance fell. In fact, it is idle to say 
that, being unaccustomed to the grand scale on which law 
costs present themselves on occasion, he was unspeakably 
shocked ; and he grew very pale and silent on hearing 
these impressive sentences. 

" And as to Miss Lake's residing with you as she pro- 
poses. Miss Lake is well aware that I am congisant of cir- 
cumstances which render any such arrangement absolutely 
impracticable. I need not, my dear sir, be more particu- 
lar — at present. In a little time you will probably be made 
acquainted with them, by the inevitable disclosures of 
time." 

" But — but what " — stammered the pale Vicar, al- 
together shocked and giddy. 

" You will not press me, my dear sir; you'll under- 
stand that, just now, I really cannot satisfy any particular 
enquiry. Miss Lake had spoken, in charity I will hope 
and trust, without thought. But I am much mistaken, 
or she will herself, on half-an-hour's calm consideration, 
■ see the moral impossibilities which interpose between her 
plan and its realization." 

There was a little pause here, during which the tread 
of their feet on the soft grass alone was audible. 

" You will quite understand," resumed the attorney, 
" the degree of confidence with which I make this com- 
munication ; and you will please, specially not to mention 
it to any person whatsoever. I do not except, in fact, any. 
You will find, on consideration, that Miss Lake will not 



368 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

press her residence upon you. No ; I've no doubt Miss 
Lake is a very intelligent person, and, when not excited, 
■will see it clearly." 

Jos Larkin took his leave a little abruptly. He did not 
condescend to ask the Vicar whether he still entertained 
Miss Lake's proposal. 

" Well," thought the Vicar, " that munificent offer is 
unavailing, it seems. The sum insufficient, great as it is ; 
and other difficulties in the way." 

He was walking homewards, slowly and dejectedly ; and 
was now beginning to feel alarm lest the purchase of the 
reversion should fail. The agreement was to have gone 
up to London by this day's mail, and now could not reach 
till the day after to-morrow — four-and-twenty hours 
later than was promised. The attorney had told him it 
was a " touch-and-go affair," and the whole thing might 
be ofi in a moment ; and if it should miscarry, what in- 
evitable ruin yawned before hiin ? Oh, the fatigue of 
these monotonous agitations — this never-ending sus- 
pense ! 

With the attorney it was different. Making the most 
of his height, which he fancied added much to the aristo- 
cratic effect of his presence, with his head thrown back, 
and swinging his walking cane easily between his finger 
and thumb by his side, he strode languidly through the 
main street of Gylingden, in the happy belief that he was 
making a sensation among the denizens of the town. 

And so he moved on to the mill-road, on which he 
entered, and was soon deep in the shadows of Redman's 
Dell. 

He opened the tiny garden-gate of Redman's Farm, 
looking about him with a supercilious benevolence, like a 
man conscious of bestowing a distinction. He was, in- 
wardly sensible of a sort of condescension in entering so 
diminutive and homely a place. 



WYLDER'S HAjVJJ. ggg 

Old Tamar -was sitting in the porch, with her closed 
, Bible upon her knees ; there was no longer light to read 
by. She rose up, like 'the "grim, white woman who 
haunts yon wood," before him. 

Her young lady had walked up to Brandon, taking the 
little girl with her, and she supposed would be back again 
early. 

Very good. Mr. Larkin would take a short walk, and 
as his business was pressing, he would take the liberty of 
looking in again in about half-an-hour, if she thought her 
mistress would be at home then. 

In the meantime Rachel had arrived at Brandon Hall. 
Dorcas — whom, if the truth were spoken, she would 
rather not have met — encountered her on the steps. 

" Have you really come all this way, Rachel, to see 
me this evening ? " she said, and something of sarcasm 
thrilled in the cold, musica,l tones. 

" No, Dorcas," said Rachel, taking her proffered hand 
in the spirit in which it was given, and with the air rather 
of a defiance than of a greeting ; " I came to see my 
brother." 

" You are frank, at all events, Rachel, and truth is 
better than courtesy ; but you forget that your brother 
could not have returned so soon." 

" Returned ? " said Rachel ; " I did not know he had 
left home." 

"He'll return to-morrow; and perhaps your meeting 
may still be in time. I was thinking of a few minutes' 
walk upon the terrace, but you are fatigued; you had 
better come in and rest." 

" No, Dorcas, I won't go in." 

" But, Rachel, you are tired ; you must come in with 
me, and drink tea, and then you can go home in the 
brougham," said Dorcas, more kindly. 
16* 



370 WYLDER'S HjUVD. 

" No, Dorcas, no; I will not drink tea nor go in : but 
I am tired, and as you are so kind, I will accept your oflfer. 
of the carriage." 

Larcom had, that moment, appeared in the vestibule, 
and received the order. 

" I'll sit in the porch, if you will allow me, Dorcas ; 
you must not lose your walk." 

" Then you won't come into the house, you won't drink 
tea with me, and you won't join me in my little walk ! and 
why not any of these ? " 

Dorcas smiled coldly, and continued, 

" Well, I shall hear the carriage coming to the door, 
and I'll return and bid you good night. It is plain, Ra- 
chel, you do not like my company." 

" True, Dorcas, I do not like your company. You are 
unjust ; you have no confidence in me ; you prejudge me 
without proof; and you have quite ceased to love me. 
Why should I like your company ? " 

Dorcas smiled a proud and rather sad smile at this 
sudden change from the conventional to the passionate ; 
and the direct and fiery charge of her kinswoman was 
unanswered. 

" You think I no longer love you, Rachel, as I did. 
Perhaps young ladies' friendships are never very endur- 
ing ; but, if it be so, the fault is not mine." 

" No, Dorcas, the fault is not yours, nor mine. The 
fault is in circumstances. The time is coming, Dorcas, when 
you will know all, and, may be, judge memercifuUy. In 
tlie meantime, Dorcas yoM cannot like wiy company, because 
you do not like me ; and I do not like yours, just because, 
in spite of all, I do love you still ; and in yours I only see 
the image of a lost friend. You may be restored to me 
soon — maybe never — but till then, I have lost you." 

" Well," said Dorcas, " it may be there is a wild kind 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 371 

of truth in what you say, Rachel, and — no matter — 
time as you say, and light — I don't understand you, 
Rachel ; hut there is this in you that resembles me — 
we both hate hypocrisy, and we are both, in our own ways, 
proud. I'll come back, when I hear the carriage, and see 
you for a moment, as you won't stay, or come with me, 
and bid you good-bye." 

So Dorcas went her way ; and alone, on the terrace, 
looking over the stone balustrade — over the rich and 
sombre landscape, dim and vaporous in the twilight — she 
still saw the pale face of Rachel — paler than she liked to 
see it. Was she ill ? — and she thought how lonely she 
would be if Rachel were to die — how lonely she was now. 
There was a sting of compunction — a yearning — and 
then started a few bitter and solitary tears. 

In one of the great stone vases, that are ranged along 
the terrace, there flourished a beautiful and rare rose. 
Its fragrant petals were now strewn upon the terrace un- 
derneath. One blossom only remained untarnished, and 
Dorcas plucked it, and with it in her fingers, she returned 
to the porch where Rachel remained. 

" You see I have come back a little before my time," 
said Dorcas. " I have just been looking at the plant you 
used to admire so much, and the leaves are shed already, 
and it reminded me X)f our friendship, Radie ; but I am 
sure you are right ; it will all bloom again after the win- 
ter, you know, and I thought I would come back, and say 
that, and give you this relic of the bloom that is gone — 
the last token," and she kissed Rachel, as she placed it in 
her fingers, " a token of remembrance and of hope." 

" I will keep it, Dorkie. It was kind of you," and 
their eyes met regretfully, 

■" And — and, I think, I do trust you, Radie," said the 
heiress of Brandon ; " and I hope you will try to like me 



372 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

on till — till spring comes, you know. And, I wish," 
she sighed softlj, " I wish we were as we used to b^. I 
am not very happy ; and — here's the carriage." 



CHAPTER LIX. 

RACHEL LAKE BEFORE THE ACCUSER. 

Twilight was darker in Redman's Dell than anywhere 
else. But dark as it was, there was still light enough 
to enable Rachel, as she hurried across the little garden, 
"on her return from Brandon, to see a long white face, 
and some dim outline of the figure to which it belonged, 
looking out upon her from the window of her little 
drawing-room. 

Tamar was in the kitchen. Could it be Stanley? 
But faint as the outline was she saw, she fancied that it 
was a taller person than he. She felt a sort of alarm, in 
which there was some little mixture of the superstitious, 
and she pushed open the door, not entering the room, but 
staring in toward the window, where against the dim, ex- 
ternal light, she clearly saw, without recognizing it, a tall 
figure, greeting her with mop and moe. 

" Who is that ? " cried Miss Lake, a little sharply. 

" It is I, Miss Lake, Mr. Josiah Larkin, of the Lodge," 
said that gentleman, with what he meant to be an air of 
dignified firmness, and looking very like a tall constable 
in possession ; " I have taken the liberty of presenting 
myself, although, I fear, at a somewhat unseasonable hour, 
in reference to a little business, which, unfortunately, will 
not,,! think, bear tq be deferred." 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 373 

"No bad news, Mr. Larkin, I hope — nothing has 
happened. The Wylders are all well, I hope ? " 

" Quite well, so far as I am aware," answered the at- 
torney, with a grim politeness ; " perfectly. Nothing has 
occurred, as yet at least, affecting the interests of that 
family ; but pomething is — I will not say, threatened — 
but I may say, mooted, which, were any attempt seriously 
made to carry it into execution, would, I regret to say, 
involve very serious consequences to a party whom for 
many reasons, I should regret being called upon to affect 
unpleasantly." 

" And pray, Mr. Larkin, can I be of any use ? " 

" Every use. Miss Lake, and it is precisely for that 
reason that I have taken the liberty of waiting upon you, 
at what, I am well aware, is a somewhat unusual hour." 

" Perhaps Mr. Larkin, you would be so good as to call 
in the morning — any hour you appoint will answer me," 
said the young lady, a little stiffly. She was still stand- 
ing at the door, with her hand upon the brass handle. 

" Pardon me. Miss Lake, the business to which I re- 
fer is really urgent." 

" Very urgent, sir, if it cannot wait till to-morrow 
morning." 

" Very true, quite true, very urgent indeed," replied 
the attorney, calmly ; "I presume, Miss Lake, I may 
take a chair ? " 

'' Certainly, sir, if you insist on my listening to-night, 
which I should certainly decline if I had the power." 

" Thank you. Miss Lake." And the attorney took a 
chair, crossing one leg over the other, aud throwing his 
head back as he reclined in it with his long arm over the 
back — the " express image," as he fancied, of a polished 
gentleman, conducting a diplomatic interview with a clev- 
er and high-bred lady. 



374 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" Then it is plain, sir, I must hear you to-night," said 
Miss Lake, haughtily. 

" Not that, exactly, Miss Lake, but only that I must 
speak to-night — in fact, I have no' choice. The subject 
of our conference really is an urgent one, and to-morrow 
morning, which we should each equally prefer, would be 
possibly too late — too late, at least, to obviate a very 
painful situation." 

" You will make it, I am sure, as short as you can, 
sir," said the young lady, in the same tone. 

" Exactly my wish, Miss Lake," replied Mr. Jos 
Larkin. 

" Bring candles, Margery." 

And so the little drawing-room was illuminated ; and 
Miss Lake sitting down at the other side of the table, qui- 
etly requested Mr. Larkin to open his case. 

" Why, really, it is hardly a five minutes' matter, Miss 
Lake. It refers to the Vicar, the Rev. William Wylder, 
and his respectable family, and a proposition which he, as 
my client, mentioned to me this evening. He stated that 
you had offered to advance a sum of 600/. for the liquida- 
tion of his liabilities. It will, perhaps, conduce to clear- 
ness to dispose of this part of the matter first. May I 
therefore ask, at this stage, whether the Rev. William 
Wylder rightly conceived you, when he so stated your 
meaning to me? " 

" Yes, certainly, I am most anxious to assist them with 
that little sum, which I have now an opportunity of pro- 
curing." 

A — exactly — yes — well, Miss Lake, that is, of 
course, very kind of you ; but, as Mr. William Wylder's 
solicitor, and as I have already demonstrated to him, I 
must now inform you, that the sum of six hundred pounds 
would be absolutely ttseless in his position; ten times 



WYLDER'S HAJVJ}. 375 

that sum would not avail to extricate him, even temporari- 
ly, from his difficulties. He sees the thing himself now ; 
and, thanking you most earnestly, he, through me, begs 
most gratefully to decline it. In fact, my dear Miss Lake, 
he has been in the hands of sharks, harpies ; but I'll beat 
about for the money, in the way of loan, and, one way or 
another, I am resolved, if _ the thing's to be done, to get 
him straight." 

" I am sorry," said Miss Lake, " you have had so much 
trouble in explaining so simple a matter. I will call early 
to-morrow, and see Mr. Wylder." 

" Pardon me," said the attorney, " I have to address 
myself next to the second portion of your offer, as stated 
to me by Mr. W. Wylder, that which contemplates a 
residence in his house, and in the respectable bosom, I 
may say, of that, in many respects, unblemished family." 

Miss Lake stared with a look of fierce enquiry at the 
attorney. 

" The "fact is. Miss Lake, that that is an arrangement 
which under existing circumstances I could not think of 
advising. I think, on reflection, you will see, that Mr. 
Wylder — the Reverend William Wylder and his lady — 
could not for one moment seriously entertain it, and that 
I, who am bound to do the best I can for them, could not 
dream of advising it." 

" I fancy it a matter of total indifference, sir, what 
you may and what you may not advise in a matter beyond 
your province — I don't understand, or desire to under- 
stand you — and thinking your manner impertinent and 
offensive, I beg that you will now be so good as to leave 
my house." 

Miss Rachel was very angry — although nothing but 
her bright color and the vexed flash of her eye showed it. 

" I were most unfortunate — most unfortunate indeed 



376 WVLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

Miss Lake, if my manner could in the least justify the 
strong and undue language in which you have been 
pleased to characterise it ; but the fact of being misunder- 
stood shall not deter me from the discharge of a simple 
duty." 

" If it is part of your duty, sir, to make yourself in- 
telligible, may I beg that you -will do it without further 
delay." 

" My principal object in calling here was to inform you. 
Miss Lake, that you must abandon the idea of residing 
in the Vicar's house, as you proposed, unless you wish 
me to state explicitly to him and to Mrs. Wylder the in- 
surmountable objections which exist to any such arrange- 
ment. Such a task. Miss Lake, would be most painful to 
me. I hesitate to discuss the question even with you ; 
and if you give me your word of honor that you abandon 
that idea, I shall, on the instant take my leave, and cer- 
tainly, for the present, trouble you no further upon a most 
painful subject." 

" And now, sir, as I have no intention whatever of tol- 
erating your incomprehensibly impertinent interference, 
and don't understand your meaning in the slightest de- 
gree, and do not intend to withdraw the offer I have made 
to good Mrs. Wylder, you will perceive the uselessness of 
prolonging your visit, and be so good as to leave me in 
unmolested possession of my poor residence." 

" If I wished you an injury. Miss Lake, I should take 
you at 3'our word. I don't — I wish to spare you: Your 
countenance, Miss Lake — you must pardon my frank- 
ness, it is my way — your counieuance tells only too 
plainly that you now comprehend my allusion." 

There was a confidence and significance in the attor- 
ney's air and accent, and a peculiar look of latent ferocity 
in his evil countenance, which gradually excited her fears, 
and fascinated her gaze. 



WVLDER'S HAJ\rD. 877 

" Now, Miss Lake, we are sitting here in the presence 
of Him who is the searcher of hearts, and before whom 
nothing is secret — your eye is upon mine and mine on 
yours — and I ask you, do you remember the night of 
the 2^th of September last J"' 

That mean, pale, taunting face ! the dreadful accents 
that vibrated within her ! How could that ill-omened 
man have divined her coniltction with the incidents of 
that direful night ? The lean figure in the black frock- 
coat, and black silk, waistcoat, with that great gleaming 
watch-chain, the long, shabby, withered face, and flushed, 
bald forehead ; and those paltry little eyes, in their pink 
setting, that nevertheless fascinated her like the gaze of a 
^serpent. An evil spirit incarnate he seemed to her. She 
blanched before it — every vestige of color fled from her 
features — she stared — she gaped at him with a strange 
look of imbecility — and the long face seemed to enjoy 
and protract its triumph. 

Without removing his .gaze he was fumbling in his 
pocket for his note-book, which he displayed with a faint 
smile, grim and pallid. 

"I see you do remember that night — as well you 
may, Miss Lake," he ejaculated, in formidable tones, and 
with a shake of his bald head. 

" Now, Miss Lake, you see this book. It contains, 
madam, the skeleton of a case. The bones and joints, 
ma'am, of a case. I have it here, noted and prepared. 
There is not a fact in it without k note of the name and 
"address of the witness who Pan prove it — the witness — 
observe me." 

Then there was a pause of a few seconds, during which 
he still kept her under his steady gaze. 

" On that night. Miss Lake, the 29th September, you 
drove in Mr. Mark Wylder's tax-cart, to the Dollington 
station, where, notwithstanding your veil, and your cau- 



3T8 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

tion you were seen and recognised. The same occurred 
at Charteris. You accompanied Mr. Mark Wylder in 
his midnight flight to London, Miss Lake. Of your stay 
in London I say nothing. It was protracted to the 2nd 
October, when you arrived in the down train at Dolling- 
ton at twelve o'clock at night, and took a cab to the ' White 
House,' where you were met by a gentleman answering 
the description of your brother. Captain Lake. Now, 
Miss Lake, I have stated no particulars, but do you think 
that knowing all this, and knowing the fraud by which 
your absence was covered, and perfectly understanding, as 
every man conversant with this sinful world, must do, the 
full significance of all this, I could dream of permitting 
you, Miss Lake, to become domesticated as an inmate in 
the family of a pure-minded, though simple and unfortu- 
nate clergyman? " 

" It may become my duty," he resumed, " to prosecute 
a searching enquiry, madam, into the circumstances of 
Mr.. Mark Wylder's disappearance. If you have the 
slightest regard for your own honor, you will not precip- 
itate that measure. Miss Lake ; and so sure as you persist 
in your unwarrantable design of residing in that unsus- 
pecting family, I will publish what I shall then feel called 
upon by my position to make known ; for I will be no 
party to seeing an innocent family compromised by ad mit- 
ing an inmate of whose real characte r they have not the 
faintest suspicion." 

Looking straight in his face, with the same expression 
of helplessness, she uttered M last a horrible cry of an- 
guish that almost thrilled that callous Christian. 

" I think I'm going mad ! " 

" Pray, compose yourself. Miss Lake — there's no need 
to agitate yourself — nothing of all this need occur if 
you do not force it upon me — nothing. I beg you'll 
collect yourself — shall I call for water. Miss Lake? " 



WYLDER'S HAJVn. 3Y9 

The fact is the attorney began to apprehend hysterics, 
or something even worse, and was himself rather fright- 
ened. But Rachel was never long overwhelmed by any 
shock — fear was not for her — her brave spirit stood her 
in stead ; and nothing rallied her so surely as the sense 
that an attempt was being made to intimidate her. 

" What have I heard — what have I endured ? Listen 
to me, you cowardly libeller. It is true that I was at 
Dollington, and at Charteris, on the night you name. 
Also true that I went to London. YourJbideous slander 
is garnished with two or three bits of truth, but only the 
more villainous for that. All that you have dared to in- 
sinuate is utterly false. Before Him who judges all, and 
knows all things — utterly and damnably false ! " 

The attorney made a bow -^ it was his best. He did 
not imitate a gentleman happily, and was never so vulgar 
as when he was finest. 

One word of her wild protest he did not believe. His 
bow was of that grave but mocking sort which was meant 
to convey it. Perhaps if he had accepted what she said 
it might have led him to new and sounder conclusions. 
Here was light, but it glared and flashed in vain for him. 

Rachel rang her bell sharply, and old Tamar appeared. 

" Show Mr. — Mr. — ; show him to the door," said 
Miss Lake. 

The attorney rose, made another bow, and threw back 
his head, and moved in a way that was oppressively gen- 
tlemanlike to the door, and speedily vanished at the little 
wicket. Old Tamar holding her candle to lighten his path, 
as she stood, white and cadaverous, in the porch. 

" She's a bit noisy to-night," thought the attorney, as 
he descended the road to Gylingden ; " but she'll be pre- 
cious sober by to-morrow morning — and I venture to say 
we shall hear nothing more of that scheme of hers. 



CHAPTER LX. 

IN WHICH DAME BUTTON IS VISITED. 

Captain Lake was in London. We know he came 
about electioneering matters; but he had not yet seen 
Leverett. Perhaps on second thoughts he rightly judged 
that Leverett knew no more than he did of the matter. It 
depended on the issue of the great debate thqt was dra^w- 
ing nigh. The Minister himself could not tell whether 
the dissolution was at hand ; and could no more postpone 
it, when the time came, than he could adjourn an eclipse. 

Notwithstanding the late whist party of the previous 
night, the gallant Captain made a very early toilet. With 
his little bag in his hand, he went downstairs, thinking un- 
pleasantly, I believe, and jumped into the Hansom that 
awaited him at the door, telling the man to go to the — 
station. They had hardly turned the corner, however, 
when he popped his head forward and changed the direc- 
tion. 

He looked at his watch. He had quite time to make 
his visit, and save the down-train after. 

Captain Lake looked peevish and dangerous, as he al- 
ways did, when he was anxious. In fact he did not know 
what the next ten mmutes might bring him. He was 
thinking what had best be done in any and every contin- 
gency. Was he still abroad, or had he arrived ; was he 
in Shive's Court, or, cursed luck ! had he crossed him 
yesterday by the dowii- train, and was he by this time, 
closeted with Larkin in the Lodge ? Lake, so to speak, 
stood at his wicket, and that accomplished bowler. For- 



WYLDER'S HAjYD. 381 

tune, ball in hand, at the other end ; -will it be swift round- 
hand, or a slow twister, or a shooter, or a lob ? 

Lake fancied that the man was driving wrong, once or 
twice, and was on the point of cursing him to that effect, 
from the window. But at last,, with an anxious throb at 
his heart, he caught sight of the dingy archway, and the 
cracked brown marble tablet over the keystone, and he 
recognised SHve's Court. 

So forth jumped the Captain, so far relieved, and glicJ- 
ed into the dim quadrangle, with its square of smoky sky 
overhead ; and the prattle of children playing on the 
flags, and the scrape of a violin' from a window, were in 
his ears, but as it were unheard. He was looking up at 
a window, with a couple of sooty scarlet geraniums in it. 
This was the court where Dame Button dwelt. He glid- 
ed up her narrow stair and let himself in by the latch ; 
and with his' cane maae a smacking like a harlequin's 
sword upon the old woma»'s deal table, crying: " Mrs. 
Dutton ; Mrs. Dutton. Is Mrs. Button at home ? " 

The old lady, who was a laundress, entered, in a short 
blue cotton wrapper, wiping the suda from her shrunken 
but sinewy arms with her apron, and on seeing the Cap- 
tain, her countenance, which was threatening, became 
very reverential indeed. 

"How d'ye do, Mrs. Dutton? Quite well. Have 
you heard lately from Jim ? " 

" No." 

" You'll see him soon, however, and give him this note, 
d'ye see, and tell him I w^s here, asking about gjyou and 
him, and very well, and glad if I can serve him again ; 
don't forget that, very glad. Where will you keep that 
note ? Oh ! your tea-caddy, not a bad safe ; and see, 
give him this, it's ten pounds. You won't forget ; and 
you want a new gown, Mrs. Dutton. I'd choose it my- 



382 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

self, only I'm such a bad judge ; but you'll choose it for 
me, won't you ? and let me see it on you when next I 
come," and with a courtesy and a great beaming smile on 
her hot face, she accepted the five-pound note, which he 
placed in her hand. 

In another moment the Captain was gone. He had 
just time to swallow a cup of coffee at the " Terminus 
Hotel," and was gliding away towards, the distant walls 
of Brandon Hall. 

He had a coupe all to himself. But he did not care 
for tl;e prospect. He saw Lawyer Larkin, as it were, 
reflected in the plate-glass, with his hollow smile and 
hungry eyes before him, knowing more than he should do, 
paying him compliments, and plotting his ruin. 

While Stanley Lake is thus scanning the shabby, but 
dangerous image of the attorney in the magic mirror be- 
fore him, that eminent limb of the law was not inactive 
in the quiet town of Gylingden. Under ordinary circum- 
stances his " pride" would have condemned the Vicar to 
a direful term of suspense, and he certainly would not 
have knocked at the door of the pretty little gabled house 
at the DoUington end of the town for many days to come. 
The Vicar would have had to seek out the attorney, to lie 
in wait for and to woo him. 

But Jos Larkin's pride, like all his other passions — 
except his weakness for the precious metals — was under 
proper regulation. Jim Dutton might arrive at any mo- 
ment, and it would not do to risk his publishing the mel- 
ancholy intelligence of Mark Wylder's death 'before the 
transfer 8f the Vicar's reversion ; and to prevent that risk 
the utmost promptitude was indispensable. 

At nine o'clock, therefore, he presented himself, attend- 
ed by his legal henchmen as before. He entered pointedly 
and briefly into Miss Lake's offer, which he characterised 



WELDER'S HAJYD. 383 

as " -wholly nugatory, illusory, and chimerical ; " told him 
he had spoken on the subject, yesterday evening, to the 
young lady, who now saw plaiidy that there really was 
nothing in it, and that she was not in a position to carry 
out that part of her proposition, which contemplated a 
residence in the Vicar's family. 

This portion of his discourse he dismissed rather slight- 
ly and mysteriously ; but he contrived to leave upon the 
Vicar's mind a very painful and awful sort of uncertainty 
respecting the young lady of whom he spoke. 

Then he became eloquent on the madness of further in- 
decision in a state of things so fearfully menacing, freely 
admitting that it would have been incomparably better for 
the Vicar never to have moved in the matter, than, hav- 
ing put his hand to the plough, to look back as he had 
been doing. If he decline his advice, there Was no more 
to be said, but to bow his head to the storm, and that 
ponderous execution would descend in wreck and desola- 
tion. 

So the Vicar, very much flushed, in panic and perplex- 
ity, and trusting wildly to his protesting lawyer's guid- 
ance, submitted. Buggs and the bilious youngster en- 
tered with the deed, and the articles were diily executed ; 
and the Vicar signed also a receipt for the fanciful part 
of the consideration, and upon it and the deed he endorsed 
a solemn promise, that he would never take any step to 
question, set aside, or disturb the purchase, or any mat- 
ter connected therewith. 

Then the attorney, congratulated the poor Vicar on his 
emancipation from his diflSculties ; and " now that it was 
all done and over, told him, what he had never told him 
before, that, considering the nature of the purchase, he 
had got a splendid price for it." 

The good man had also his agreement from Lake to sell 
Five Oaks. 



384 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

The position of the good attorney, therefore, in a com- 
mercial point of view, was eminently healthy and con- 
venient. For less than half the value of Five Oaks alone, 
he was getting that estate, and a vastly greater one beside, 
to be succeeded to on Mark Wylder's death. 

It is not to be supposed, that having got one momentous 
matter well off his mind, the good attorney was to be long 
rid of anxieties. The human mind is fertile in that sort 
of growth. One crop of cares will always succeed another 
— not very oppressive, nor in any wise grand, perhaps — 
worries, simply, no more ; and this must go on so long as 
the state of man is imperfect, and plenty of possible evil 
in futurity. 

The attorney must run up to London for a day or two. 
What if that mysterious, and almost illegible brute, James 
Dutton, should arrive while -ho was away. Very unpleas- 
ant, possibly ! For the attorney intended to keep that gen- 
tleman very quiet. Sufficient time must be allowed to in- ■ 
tervene to disconnect the purchase of the Vicar's remaind- 
er from the news of Mark Wylder s demise. A year and 
a-half, maybe, or possibly a year might do. For if the 
good attorney was cautious, he was also greedy, and would 
take possession as early as was safe. Therefore arrange- 
ments were carefully adjusted to detain that important 
person, in the event of his arriving ; and a note, in the 
good attorney's hand, invited him to remain at the Lodge 
till his return, and particularly requested that " he would 
kindly abstain from mentioning to anyone, during his 
absence, any matter he might intend to communicate to 
him in his professional capacity or otherwise." 

In the meantime our friend, Captain Lake, arrived in 
a hired fly, with his light baggage, at the door of stately 
Brandon. So soon as the dust and ashes of railway travel 
were removed, the pale Captain, in changed attire, snowy 



WYLDER'S HAjVU. 3g5 

cambric, and with perfumed hair and handkerchief, pre- 
sented himself before Dorcas. 

" Now, Dorkie, darling, your poor soldier has come 
back, resolved to turn over a new leaf, and never more to 
reserve another semblance of a secret from you," said he, 
so soon as his first greeting was over. " I long to have a 
good talk with you, Dorkie. I have no one on earth to 
confide in but you. I think," he said, with a little sigh, 
" I would never have been so reserved with you, darling, 
if I had had anything pleasant to confide ; but all I have 
to say is triste and tiresome — only a story of difficulties 
and petty vexations. I want to talk to you, Dorkie. 
Where shall it be ? " 

They were in the _great drawing-room, where I had first 
seen Dorcas Brandon and Rachel Lake, on the evening on 
which my acquaintance with the princely "Ball was renew- 
ed, after an interval of so many years. 

" This room, Stanley, dear ? " 

" Yes, this room will answer very well," he said, look- 
ing round. " We can't be over heard, it is so large. Very 
well, darling, listen." 



CHAPTER LXI. 

THE CAPTAIN EXPLAINS WHY MARK WILDER ABSCONDED. 

" How delicious these violets are ! " said Stanley, lean- 
ing for a moment over the fragrant purple dome that 
crowned a china stand on the marble table they were pass- 
ing. " You love flowers, Dorkie. Every perfect woman 
17 



386 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

is, I think, a sister of Flora's. You are looking pale — 
you have not been ill ? No ! I'm very glad you say so. 
Sit down for a moment and listen, darling. And first I'll 
tell you, upon my honor, what Kachel has been worrying 
me about." 

Dorcas sate beside him on the sofa, and he placed his 
slender arm affectionately round her waist. 

"You must know, Dorkie, that before his sudden de- 
parture, Mark Wylder promised to lend William, his 
brother, a sum sufficient to relieve him of all his pressing 
debts." 

" Debts ! I never knew before that he had any," ex- 
claimed Dorcas. " Poor William ! I am so sorry." 

" Well, he has, like other fellows, only he can't get 
away as easily, and he has been very much pressed since 
Mark went, for he has not yet lent him a guinea, and in 
fact Rachel says she thinks he is in danger of being reg- 
ularly sold out. " Well, you must know that / was the 
sole cause of Mark Wylder's leaving the country." 

" You, Stanley ! " 

" Yes, I, Dorkie. I believe I thought I was doing a 
duty ; but really I was nearly mad with jealousy, and 
simply doing my utmost to drive a rival from your pres- 
ence. And yet, without hope for myself, desperately in 
love." 

Dorcas looked down and smiled oddly ; it was a sad and 
bitter smile, and seemed to ask whither has that desperate 
love, in so short a time, iiown ? 

" I know I was right. He was a stained man, and was 
liable at any moment to be branded. It was villainous in 
him to seek to marry you. I told him at last that, unless 
he withdrew, your friends should know all. I expected he 
would show fight, and that a meeting would follow ; and 
I really did not much care whether I were killed or not. 



WYLDER'S HAjYD. 387 

But he went, on the contrary, rather quietly, threatening 
to pay me off, however, though he did not say how. 

" He is palpably machinating something to my des- 
truction with an influential attorney of whom I keep a 
watch, and hip has got some fellow named Dutton into the 
conspiracy ; and not knowing how they mean to act, and 
only knowing how utterly wicked, cunning, and bloody- 
minded he is, and that he hates me as he probably never 
hated anyone before, I must be prepared to meet him, 
and, if possible, to blow . up that Satanic cabal, which 
without money I Tsan't. It was partly a mystification 
about the election ; of course, it will be expensive, but 
nothing like the -other. Are you ill, DoAie? " 

He might well ask, for she appeared on the point of 
fainting. 

Dorcas had read and heard stories of men seemingly no 
worse than their neighbors — nay, highly esteemed, and 
praised, and liked — who yet were haunted by evil men, 
who encountered them in lonely places, or by night, and 
controlled them by the knowledge of some dreadful crime. 
Was Stanley — her husband — whose character she had 
begun to discern, whose habitual mystery was, somehow, 
tinged in her mind with a shade of horror, one of this 
two-faced, diabolical order of heroes ? 

Why should he dread this cabal, as he called it, even 
though directed by the malignant energy of the absent 
and shadowy Mark Wylder ? Why should it be necessary 
to buy off the conspirators whom a guiltless man would 
defy and punish ? 

The doubt did not come in these defined shapes. Aa a 
halo surrounds a saint, a shadow rose suddenly, and en- 
veloped pale, scented, smiling Stanley, with the yellow 
eyes. He stood in the centre of a dreadful medium, 
through which she saw him, ambiguous and awful ; and 
she sickened. 



388 wrzDER's hajvd. 

" Are jou ill, Dorkie, darling ? " said the apparition in 
accents of tenderness. " Yes, you are ill." 

And he hastilj threw open the window, close to which 
they were sitting, and she quickly revived Jn the cooling 
air. 

" You are hetter, darling ; thank heaven, you are bet- 
ter.' 

" Yes — yes — a great deal better ; it is passing away." 

Her color was returning, and with a shivering sigh, 
she said — 

" Oh ! Stanley, you must speak truth ; I am your 
wife. Do they know anything very bad — are you in 
their power ? " 

" Why, my dearest, what on earth could put such a wild 
fancy in your head ? " said Lake, with a strange laugh, 
and, as she fancied, growing still paler. " Do yoti sup- 
pose I am a highwayman in disguise, or a murderer, like 
— what's his name — Eugene Aram. I must have ex- 
pressed myself very ill, if I suggested anything so tragical. 
I protest before Heaven, my darling, there is not one 
word or act of mine I need fear to submit to any court of 
justice or of honor on earth." 

He took her hand, and kissed it affectionately, and still 
fondling it gently between his, he resumed — ' 

" I don't mean to say, of course, that I have always 
been better than other young fellows ; I've been foolish, 
and wild, and — and — I've done wrong things, occasion- 
ally — as all young men will ; but for high crimes and 
misdemeanors, or for melodramatic situations, I never had 
the slightest taste. There's no man on earth who can 
tell anything of me, or put me under any sort of pressure, 
thank Heaven ; and simply because I have never in the 
course of my life done a single act unworthy of a gentle- 
man, or'in the most trifling way compromised myself. I 



WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 389 

swear it, my darling, upon my honor and soul, and I will 
swear it in any terms — in order totally and for ever to 
remove from your mind so amazing a fancy." 

And with a little laugh, and still holding her hand, he 
passed his arm round her waist, and kissed her affection- 
ately. 

" But you are perfectly right, Dorkie, in supposing that 
I am under very considerable apprehension from their 
machinations. Though they cannot slur our fair fame, it 
is quite possible they may very seriously affect our prop- 
erty. Mr. Larkin is in possession of all the family papers. 
I don't like it, but it is too late now. The estates have 
been back and forward so often between the Brandons and 
Wylders, I always fancy there may be a screw loose, or a 
frangible link somewhere, and he's deeply interested for 
Mark Wylder." 

" You are better, darling ; I think you are better," he 
said, looking in her face, after a little pause. 

" Yes, dear Stanley, much better ; but why should you 
suppose any plot against our title ? " 

"Mark Wylder is in constant correspondence with that 
fellow Larkin. 1 wish we were quietly rid of him, he is 
such an unscrupulous dog. I assure you, I doubt very 
much if the deeds are safe in his possession ; at all events, 
he ought to choose between us and Mark Wylder. It is 
monstrous his being solicitor for both. 

" But tell me, Stanley, how do you want to apply money? 
What particular good can it do us in this unpleasant un- 
certainty?" . 

" Well, Dorkie, believe me I have a sure instinct in 
matters of this kind. Larkin is plotting treason against 
us. Wylder ia inciting him, and will reap the benefit of ' 
it. Larkin hesitates to strike, but that won't last long. 
In the meantime, he has made a distinct offer to buy Five 



390 WYLDER'8 HAJVD. 

Oaks. His doing so places him in the same interest with 
us : and, although he does not offer its full value, still I 
should sleep sounder if it were concluded ; and I don't 
think we are safe until that sale is concluded." 

Dorcas looked fpr a moment earnestly in his facb, and 
then down, in thought. 

" Now, Dorkie, I have told you all. Who is to advise 
you, if not your husband ? Trust my sure conviction, and 
promise me, Dorcas, that you will not hesitate to join me 
in averting, by a sacrifice we shall hardly feel, a really 

stupendous blow." 

Stanley, tell me once more, are you really quite frank 
when you tell me that you apprehend no personal injury 
from these people — apart, I mean, from the possibility of 
Mr. Larkin's conspiring to impeach our rights in favor of 
Mr. Wylder?" 

" Personal injury ? None in life, my darling." 

" And there is really no secret — nothing — teU your 
wife — nothing you fear coming to light ? " 

" I swear again, nothing. WonH you believe me, dar- 
ling?" 

" Then, if it be so, Stanley, I think we should hesitate 
long before selling any part of the estate, upon a mere 
conjecture of danger. You or I may over-estimate that 
danger, being so nearly affected by it. We must take ad- 
vice ; and first, we must consult Chelford. Remember, 
Stanley, how long the estate-has been preserved. What- 
ever may have been their Crimes and follies, those who 
have gone before us never impaired the Brandon estate ; 
and, without full consideration, without urgent cause "I, 
Stanley, will not begin." 

" Chelford is the very last man whom I would think of 
consulting," answered Stanley, with his malign and peevish 
look. 

" And why? " asked Dorcas. 



-• 



WYLDER'S HAJVjD. 39I 



" Because he is quite sure to advise against it," answer- 
en Stanley, sharply. " He is one of those Quixotic fellows 
■who get on very well in fair weather, while living with a 
duke or duchess, but are sure to run you into mischief when 
they come to the inns and highways of common life. I 
know perfectly, .he would protest against a compromise. 
Discharge Larkin — fight him — and see us valiantly 
stript of our property by some cursed law-quibble ; and 
think we ought to be much more comfortable so, than in 
this house, on the terms of a compromise with a traitor 
like Larkin. But / don't think so, nor aijy man of sense, 
nor anyone but a hare-brained, conceited knight- errant." 

" I think Chelford one of the most sensible as well as 
honorable men I know ; and I will take no step in selling 
a part of our estate to that odious Mr. Larkin, without 
consulting him, and at least hearing what he thinks of 
it." 

Stanley's eyes were cast down — and he was nipping 
the straggling hairs of his light moustache between his lips 
— but he made no answer. Only suddenly he looked up, 
and said quietly, 

"Very well. Good-bye for a little, Dorkie," and he 
leaned over and kissed her cheek, and then passed into the 
hall, where he took his hat and cane. 

Larcom presented him with a note, in a sealed envelope. 
As he took it from the salver he recognized Larkin's clear 
and large hand. I sutpect that grave Mr. Larcom had 
been making his observations and conjectures thereupon. 

The Captain took it with a little nod, and a peevish 
side-glance. It said — 

"My Dear Captain Brandon lake, — Imperative 
business calls me to London by the early train to-morrow. 
Will you therefore favor me, if convenient, by the bearer, 



392 WTLDER'S HSJVD. 

■with the small note of consent, which must accompany the 
articles agreeing to sell. 

" I remain, &c. &c. &c." 

Larkin's groom was waiting for an answer. 

" Tell him I shall probably see Mr. Larkin myself." 
said the Captain, snappishly ; and so he walked down to 
pretty little Gylingden. 

On the steps of the reading-room stood old Tom Ruddle, 
who acted as marker in the billiard-room, treasurer, and 
book-keeper beside, and swept out the premises every 
morning and went to and fro at the proper hours, between 
that literary and sporting institution and the post-office ; 
and who, though seldom sober, was always well instructed 
in the news of the town. 

" How do you do, old Ruddle — quite well ? " asked 
the Captain with a smile. " Who hare you got in the 
rooms ? " 

Well, Jos Larkin was not there. Indeed he seldom 
showed in those premises which he considered decidedly 
low, dropping in only now and then, like the great county 
gentlemen, on sessions days to glance at the papers, and 
gossip on their own high affiiirs. 

But Buddie had seen Mr. Jos Larkin on the green, not 
five minutes since, and thither the gallant Captain bent 
his steps. 



CHAPTER LXn. 

THE ACE OF HEARTS. 

" So you are going to London — to-morrow, is not it ? " 
said Captain Lake, when on the green of Gylingden, 
where visitors were promenading, and the militia bands 
playing lusty polkas, he met Mr. Jos Larkin, in lavender 
trousers and kid gloves, new hat, metropolitan black, 
frock-coat, and shining French boots — the most elegant 
as well as the most Christian of provincial attorneys. 

" Ah, yes — I think — should my engagements permit 
— of starting early to-morrow. The fact is, Captain 
Lake, our poor friend the Vicar, you know, the Rev. 
William Wylder, has pressing occasion for some money, 
and I can't leave him absolutely in the hands of Burling- 
ton and Smith." 

" No, of course — quite so," said Lake, with that sly 
smile which made every fellow on whom it lighted someliow 
fancy that the Captain had divined his secret. " Very 
honest fellows, with good looking after — eh ? " 

The attorney laughed a little awkwardly, with his pretty 
pink blush over his long face. 

" Well, I'm far from saying that, but it is their business, 
you know, to take care of their client ; and it would Hot 
do to give them the handling of mine. Can I do any- 
thing. Captain Lake, for you while in town? " 

" Nothing on earth, thank you very much. But I 
am thinking of doing something for you. You've inter- 
17* 



394 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

ested yourself a great deal about Mark Wylder's move- 
men ta." 

" Not more than my duty clearly imposed." 

" Yes ; but notwithstanding it will operate, I'm afraid, 
as you will presently see, rather to his prejudice. For to 
prevent your conjectural interference from doing him a 
more serious mischief, I will now, and here, if you please, 
divulge the true and only cause of his absconding. It is 
fair to mention, however, that your knowing it will make 
you fully as odious to him as I am — and that, I assure 
you, is very odious indeed. There were four witnesses 
beside myself — Lieutenant- Colonel Jermyn, Sir James 
Carter, Lord George Vanbrugh, and Ned Clinton." 

" Witnesses ! Captain Lake. Do you allude to a 
legal matter ? " enquired Larkin, with his look of insin- 
uating concern and enquiry. 

" Quite the contrary — a very lawless matter, indeed. 
These four gentlemen, beside myself, were present at the 
occurrence. But perhaps you've heard of itr? " said the 
Captain, " though that's not likely." 

" Not that I recollect. Captain Lake," answered Joa 
Larkin. 

" Well, it is not a thing you'd forget easily — and in- 
deed it was a very well kept secret, as well as an ugly 
one," and Lake smiled, in his sly quizzical way. 

" And where, Captain Lake, did it occur, may I en- 
quire ? " said Larkia,.with his charming insinuation. 

" You may, and you shall hear — in fact, I'll tell you 
the whole thing. It was at Gray's Club, in Pall Mall. 
The whist party were old Jermyn, -Carter, Vanbrugh, and 
Wylder. Clinton and I were at piquet, and were disturb- 
ed by a precious row the old boys kicked up, Jermyn 
and Carter were charging Mark Wylder, in so many words, 
with not playing fairly — there was an ace of hearts on 



WYLJDER'S HAJYD. 395 

the table played by him, and before, three minutes they 
brought it home — and in fact it was quite clear that poor 
dear Mark had helped himself to it in quite an irregular 
•way." 

" Ob, dear, Captain Lake, oh, dear, h9w shocking — 
how inexpressibly shocking ! Is not it melancholy ? " 
said Larkin, in his finest and most pathetic horror. 

" Yea; but don't cry till I've done," said Lake, tran- 
quilly. "Mark tried to bully, but the cool old heads 
were too much for him, and--he threw himself at last 
entirely on our mercy — and very abject he became, poor 
thing." 

" How well the mountains look ! I am afraid we shall 
have rain to-morrow." 

Larkin uttered a^short groan. 

" So they sent him into the small card-room, next that 
we were playing in. I think we were about the last in 
the club — it was past three o'clock — and so the old 
boys deliberated on their sentence. To bring the matter 
before the committee were utter ruin to Mark, and they 
let him ofij on these conditions — he was to retire forth- 
with from the club ; he was never to play any game of 
cards again ; and, lastly, he was never more to address 
any one of the gentlemen who were present at his detec- 
tion ; and provided they were each and all strictly observed, 
it was intimated that the occurrence should be kept se- 
cret. Well, you know, that was letting poor old Mark 
off in a coach ; and I do assure you, though we had nev- 
er liked one another, I really was very glad they did not 
move his expulsion — which would have involved his quit- 
ting the service — and I positively don't know how he 
could have lived if that had occurred." 

"I do solemnly assure you. Captain Lake, what you 
have told me has beyond expression amazed, and I will 



396 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

say, horrified me," said the attorney, with a slow and 
melancholy vehemence. " Better men might have sus- 
pected something of it — I do solemnly pledge my honor 
that nothing of the kind so much as crossed my mind — 
not naturally suspicious, I believe, but all the more shock- 
ed. Captain Lake, on that account." 

" He was poor then, you see, and a few pounds were 
everything to him, and the temptation immense ; but 
clumsy fellows ought not to try that sort of thing. There's 
the highway — Mark would have made a capital garrot- 
ter." , 

The attorney groaned, and turned up his eyes. The 
band was playing " Pop goes the weasel," and old Jack- 
son, very well dressed and buckled up, with a splendid 
smile upon his waggish, military countenance, cried, as he 
passed, with a wave of his hand, " How do, Lake — how 
do, Mr. Larkin — beautiful day ! " 

"I've no wish to injure Mark ; but it is better that you 
should know at once, than go about poking everywhere 
for information." 

" I do assure you " — 

" And having really no wish to hurt him," pursued the 
Captain, " and also making it, as I do, a point that you 
shall repeat this conversation as little as possible, I don't 
choose to appear singular, as your sole informant, and 
I've given you here a line to Sir James Carter — he's 
member, you know, for Huddlesbury. I mention, that 
Mark, having broken his promise, and played for heavy 
stakes, too, bpth on board his ship, and at Plymouth and 
Naples, which I happen to know ; and also by accosting 
me, whom, as one of the gentlemen agreeing to impose 
these conditions, he was never to address, I felt myself at 
liberty to mention it to you, holding the relation you do 
to me as well as to him, in consequence of the desir- 



WELDER'S HAJVD. 397 

ableness of placing you in possession of the true cause of 
his absconding, which was simply my telling him that I 
would not permit him, slurred as he was, to marry a lady 
who was totally ignorant of his actual position ; and, in 
fact, that unless- he withdrew, I must acquaint the young 
lady's guardian of the circumstances." 

There was quite enough probability in this story to war- 
rant Jos Larkin in turning up his eyes and groaning. 
But in the intervals, his shrewd eyes searched the face of 
the Captain, not knowing whether to believe one syllable 
of what he related. 

I may as well mention here, that the attorney did pre- 
sent the note to Sir J. Carter with which Captain Lake 
had furnished him ; indeed, he never lost an opportunity 
of making the acquaintance of a person of rank; and 
that the worthy baronet, so appealed to, and being a blunt 
sort of fellow, and an old acquaintance of Stanley's, did, 
in a short and testy sort of way, corroborate Captain Lake's 
story, having previously conditioned that he was not to be 
referred to as the authority from whom Mr. Larkin had 
learned it. 

The attorney and Captain Brandon Lak^ were now 
walking side by side over the more sequestered part of the 
green. 

" And so," said the Captain, coming to a stand-still, 
"I'll bid you good-bye, Larkin; what stay, I forgot to 
ask, do you make in town ? " 

" Only a day or two." 

" You'll not wait for the division on Trawler's mo- 
tion?" 

" Oh, dear, no. I calculate I'll be here again, certain- 
ly, in three days' time. And, I suppose, Captain Lake, 
you received my note ? " 

"You mean just now? Oh, yes; of course it is all 



398 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

right ; but one day is as good as another ; and you have 
got my agreement signed." 

" Pardon me, Captain Brandon Lake ; the fact is, one 
day, in this case, does not answer as well as another, for 
I must have drafts of the deeds prepared by my convey- 
ancer in town, and the note is indispensable. Perhaps, 
if there is any diflSculty, you will be so good as to say so, 
and I shall then be in a position to consider the case in 
its new aspect." 

" What the. devil difficulty can there be, sir ? I can't 
see it, any more than what hurry can possibly exist about 
it," said Lake, ^tung with a momentary fury. It seemed 
as though everyone was conspiring to perplex and torment 
him ; and he, like the poor Vicar, though for very different 
reasons, had grown intensely anxious to sell. He had 
grown to dread the attorney, since the arrival of Button's 
letter. 

" There is no difficulty about the note, sir; it contains 
but four lines, and I've given you the form. No difficulty 
can exist but in the one quarter; and the fact is," he 
added, steadily, "unless I have that note before I leave 
to-morrow morning, I'll assume that you wish to be off, 
Captain Lake, and I will ada|)t myself to circumstances." 

" You may have it now" said the Captain, with a fierce 
carelessness. "D — d nonsense ! Who could have fancied 
any such stupid hurry ? Send in the morning, and you 
shall have it." And the Captain, rather savagely turned 
away, skirting the crowd who hovered about the band, in 
his leisurely and now solitary ramble. 

The Captain was sullen that evening at home. He was 
very uncomfortable. His heart was failing him for the 
things that were coming to pass. One of his maniacal 
tempers, which had often before thrown him, as it were 
" off the rails," was at the bottom of his immediate troubles. 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 399 

This proneness to sudden accesses of violence and fury 
was the compensation which abated the effect of his or- 
dinary craft and self-command. 

He had done all he could to obviate the consequences of 
his folly in this case. He hoped the attorney might not 
succeed in discovering Jim Button's whereabouts. At all 
events, he had been beforehand, and taken measures to 
quiet that person's dangerous resentment. But it was 
momentous in the critical state of things to give this dan- 
gerous attorney a handsome share in his stake — to place 
him, as he had himself said, " in the same boat," and en- 
list all his unscrupulous astuteness in maintaining his 
title ; and if he went to London disappointed, and things 
turned out unluckily about Button, it might be a very aw- 
ful business, indeed. 

Dinner had been a very dull teie-d-tete. Dorcas sat 
stately and sad — looking from the window toward the 
distant sunset horizon, piled in dusky gold and crimson 
clouds, against the Jaded, green sky — a glory that is al- 
ways melancholy and dreamy. Stanley sipped his claret, 
his eyes upon the cloth. He raised them and looked out, 
too ; and the ruddy light tinted his pale features. 

A gleam of good humor seemed to come with it, and he 
said — 

" I was just thinking, Dofkie, that for you and me, alone, 
these great rooms are a little dreary. Suppose we have 
tea in the tapestry room." 

" The Dutch room, Stanley — I think so — I should 
like it very well. So, I am certain would Rachel. I've 
written to her to come. I hope she will. I expect her at 
nine. The broughman will be with her. She wrote such 
an odd note to-day, addressed to you ; but / opened it. 
Here it is." 

She did not watch his countenance, or look in his di- 



400 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

rection, as he read it. She addressed herself on the con- 
trary, altogether to. her Lilliputian white lap-dog, Snow, 
and played with his silken ears ; and chatted with him as 
ladies will. 

A sealed envelope broken. That scounderel, Larcom, 
knew perfectly it was meant for me. He was on the point 
of speaking his mind, which would hardly have been 
pleasant to hear, upon this piece of detective impertinence 
of his wife's. He could have smashed all the glass upon 
the table. But he looked serene, and leaned back with 
the corner of Rachel's note between two fingers. It was 
a case in which he clearly saw he must command himself. 



CHAPTER LXm. 

IN THE DUTCH KOOM 

His heart misgave him. He felt that a crisis was 
coming ; and he read — 

" I cannot tell you, my poor brother, how miserable I 
am. I have just learned that a very dangerous person 
has discovered more about that dreadful evening than we 
believed know to anybody in Gylingden. I am subjected 
to the most agonizing suspicions and insults. Would to 
Heaven I were dead ! But living, I cannot endure my 
present state of mind longer. To-morrow morning I will 
see Dorcas — poor Dorcas ! — and tell her all. I am 
weary of urging you, in vain, to do so. It would have 
been much better. But although, after that interview, I 
shall, perhaps, never see her more, I shall yet be happier, 



WYLDER'S HAjYJ}. 401 

and, I think, relieved from suspense, and the torments of 
mystery. So will she. At all events, it is her right to 
know all — and she shall. 



" Your outcast and miserable Sister." 

■ 

On Stanley's lips his serene, unpleasant smile was 
gleaming, as he closed the note carelessly. He intended 
to speak, but his voice caught. He cleared it, and sipped 
a little claret. 

" For a clever girl she certainly does write the most 
wonderful rubbish. Such an eflfusion ! And she sends it 
tossing about, from hand to hand, among the servants. 
I've anticipated her, however, Dorkie." And betook her 
band and kissed it. " She does not know I've told you all 
myself." 

Stanley went to the library, and Dorcas to the conser- 
vatory, neither very happy, each haunted by an evil au- 
gury, and a sense of coming danger. The deepening 
shadow warned Dorcas that it was time to repair to the 
Dutch room, where she found lights and tea prepared. 

In a few minutes more the library door opened and 
Stanley Lake peeped in. 

" Radie not come yet ? " said he, entering. " We cer- 
tainly are much pleasanter in this room, Dorkie, "more, in 
proportion, than we two should have been in the drawing- 
room." 

He seated himself beside her, drawing his chair very 
close to hers, and taking her hand in his. He was more 
afiFectionate this evening than usual. What did it portend ? 
she thought. She had already begun to acquiesce in Ra- 
chel's estimate of Stanley, and to fancy that whatever he 
did it was with an unacknowledged purpose. 

" Does little Dorkie love me? " said Lake, in a sweet 
undertone. 



402 WYLVER'S HJiJVD. 

There was reproach, but love too, in the deep soft glance 
she threw upon him. 

" You must promise me not to be frightened at what I 
am going to tell you," said Lake. 

She hearfl him with sudden panic, and a sense of cold 
stole over her. She knew something was coming — the 
secret she had invoked so long — and she was appalled. 

" Don't be frightened, darling. It is necessary to tell 
you ; but it is really not much when you hear me out. 
You'll say so when you have quite heard me. So you 
won't be frightened ? " 

She was gazing straight into his wild yellow eyes, fasci- 
nated, with a look of expecting terror. 

" You are nervous, darling," he continued, laying his 
hand on hers. ' ' Shall we put it ofiF for a little ? You are 
frightened." 

" Not much frightened, Stanley," she whispered. 

" Well, we had better wait. I see, Dorcas, you are 
frightened and nervous. Don't keep looking at me ; look 
at something else, can't you? You make yourself nervous 
that way. I promise, upon my honor, I'll not say a word 
about it till you bid me." 

" I know, Stanley — I know." 

" Then, why won't you look down, or look up, or look 
any way you please, only don't stare at me so." 

" Yes — oh, yes," and she shut her eyes. 

" I'm sorry I began," he said, pettishly. " You'll make 
a fuss. You've made yourself quite nervous; and I'll 
wait a little." 

" ! no, Stanley, now — for Heaven's sake, now. I 
was only a little startled ; but I am quite well again. Is 
it anything about marriage ? Oh, Stanley, in mercy, tell 
me was there any other engagement ? " 

"Nothing, darling — nothing on earth of the sortj" 



WTLDER'S HJIJ^B. ' 403 

and he spote with an icy little laugh. " Yoijr poor soldier 
is altogether yours, Dorkie," and he kissed her cheek. 

" Thank God for that ! " said Dorcas, hardly above her 
breath. 

" What I have to say is quite different, and really noth- 
ing that need affect you ; but Rachel has made such a row 
about it. Fifty fellows, I know, are in much worse fixes ; 
and though it is not of so much eonsequence, still I think 
I should not have told you ; only, without knowing it, you 
were thwarting me, and helping to get me into a serious 
difficulty by your obstinacy — or what you will — about 
Five Oaks." 

Somehow, trifling as the matter was, Stanley seemed to 
grow more and more unwilling to disclose it, and rather 
shrank from it ncAv. 

" Now, Dorcas, mind, there must be no trifling. You 
must not treat me as Rachel has. If you can't keep a 
secret — for it is a secret — say so. Shall I tell you ? " 

" Yes, Stanley — yes. I'm your wife." 

" Well, Dorcas, I told you something of it; but only 
a part, and some circumstances I did intentionally color a 
little ; but I could not help it, unless I had told every- 
thing ; and. no matter what you or Rachel may say, it was 
kinder to withhold it as long as I could." 
'He glanced at the door, and spoke in a lower tone. 

And so, with his eyes lowered to the table at which he 
sat, glancing ever and anon sideways at the door, and 
tracing little figures with the tip of his finger upon the 
shining rosewood, he went on murmuring his strange and 
hateful story in the ear of his wife. 

It was not until he had spoken some three or four min- 
utes that Dorcas suddenly uttered a wild scream, and 
started to her feet. And Stanley'Tilso rose precipitately 
and caught her in his arms, for she was falling. 



404 WVLDER'S HJlJVn. 

As he supported her in her chair, the library door open- 
ed, and the sinister face of Uncle Lome looked in, and re- 
turned the Captain's stare with one just as fixed and hor- 
rified. 

" Hush ! " whispered Uncle Lome, and he limped softly 
into the room, and stopped about three yards away, " she 
is not dead, but sleepeth." 

" Hallo ! Larcom," scouted Lake. 
' ' I tell you she's dreaming the same dream that I 
dreamt in the middle of the night." 
"Hallo! Larcom." 

" Mark's on leave to-night, in uniform ; his face is flat- 
tened against the window. This is his lady, you know." 

"Hallo! D — you — are you there?" shouted the 
Captain, very angry. 

" I saw Mark following you like an ape, on all-fours ; 
such nice white teeth I grinning at your heels. But he 
can't bite yet — ha, ha, ha ! Poor Mark ! " 

" Will you be so good, sir, as to touch the bell? " said 
Lake, changing his tone. 

He was afraid to remove his arm from Dorcas, and he 
was splashing water from a glass upon her face and fore- 
head. 

"No — no. No bell yet — time enough — ding, dong. 
You say, dead and gone." 

Captain Lake cursed him and his absent keeper between 
his teeth ; still, in a rather flurried way, prosecuting his 
conjugal attentions. 

" There was no bell for poor Mark ; and he's always 
listening, and stares so. A cat may look, you know." 

" Can't you touch the bell, sir ? What are you stand- 
ing there for ? " snarled Lake, with a glare at the old 
man. He looked as if he could have murdered him. 
" Standing between the living and the dead I " 



WTLDER'S HAjYD. 405 

'• Here, Reuben, here ; where the devil have you been 
— take him away. He has terrified her. By — he ought 
to be shot." 

The keeper silently slid his arm into Uncle Lome's, and, 
unresisting, the old man talking to himself the while, drew 
him from the room. 

Larcom, about to announce Misa Lake, and closely fol- 
lowed by that young lady, passed the grim old phantom 
on the lobby. 

" Be quick, you are wanted there," said the attendant, 
as he passed. 

Dorcas, pale as marble, sighing deeply again and again, 
her rich black hair drenched in water, which trickled over 
her cheeks, like the tears and moisture of agony, was re- 
covering. There was water spilt on the table, and the 
fragments of a broken glass upon the floor. 

The moment Rachel saw her, she divined what had hap- 
pened, and, gliding over, she placed her arm round her. 

" You're better, darling. Open the window, Stanley. 
Send her maid." 

" Aye, send her maid," cried Captain Lake to Larcom. 
This is your d — d work. A nice mess you have made 
of it among you." 

" Are you better, Dorcas ? " said Rachel. 

" Yes, much better. I'm glad, darling, I understand 
you now. Radie, kiss me." 

Next morning, before early family prayers, while Mr. 
Jos Larkin was locking the despatch box which was to 
accompany him to London, Mr. Larcom arrived at the 
Lodge. 

He had a note for Mr. Larkin's hand, which he must 
himself deliver ; and so he was shown into that gentle- 
man's ofGcial cabinet, and received with the usual lofity 
kindness. 



406 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

" Well, Mr. Larcom, pray sit down. And can I do 
anything for you, Mr. Larcom ? " said the good attorney, 
waving his long hand toward a vacant chair. 

"A note. Sir." 

" Oh, yes ; very well." And the tall attorney rose, 
and, facing the rural prospect at his window, with his 
baek to Mr. Larcom, he read, with a faint smile, the few 
lines, in a delicate hand, consenting to the sale of Five 
Oaks." 

He had to look for a time at the distant prospect to al- 
low his smile to subside, and to permit the conscious tri- 
umph which he knew beamed through his features to dis- 
charge itself and evaporate in the light and air before 
turning to Mr Larcom, which he did with an air of sudden 
recollection. 

" Ah — all right, I was forgetting ; I must give you a 
line." 

So he did, and hid away the note in his despatch-box, 
and said — 

" The family all quite well, I hope? " whereat Larcom 
shook his head. 

" My mistress " — he always called her so, and Lake, 
the Capting — " has been takin' on hoffle, last night, what- 
ever come betwixt 'em. She was fainted outright in her 
chair in the Dutch room ; and he said it was the old gen- 
tleman — old Flannels, we calls him, for shortness — but 
lor' bless you, she's too used to him to be frightened, and 
that's only a make-belief; and Miss Dipples. her maid, 
she says as how she was worse upstairs, and she's made up 
again with Miss Lake, which ^sAe was very glad, no doubt, 
of the making friends, I do suppose ; but it's a bin a bad 
row, and I suspeck amost he's used vilins." 

" Compulsion, I suppose ; you mean constraint ? " sug- 
gested Larkin, very curious. 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 407 

"Well, that may be, sir, but I almost suspeck she's bin 
hurted somehow. She got them cryin' fits upstairs, you 
know; and the Capting, he's hoffle bad-tempered this 
morning, and he never looked near her once, after his sis- 
ter came ; and he left them together, tgjking and crying, 
and he locked hisself into the library, like one as knowed 
he'd done something to be ashamed on, half the night." 

And so on. But there was no more to be learned, and 
Mr. Larcom returned and attended the Captain very rev- 
erentially at his solitary breakfast. 

Mr. Jos Larkin was away for London. Everything 
was going perfectly smoothly with him. A celestial grati- 
tude glowed and expanded within his breast. His angling 
had been prosperous hitherto, but just now he had made a 
miraculous draught, and his nets and his heart were burst- 
ing. 

There was no shadow of self-reproach to slur the sunny 
landscape. He had made a splendid purchase from Cap- 
tain Lake, it was true. He drew his despatch-box nearer to 
him affectionately, as he thought on the precious records 
it contained. But who in this wide-awake world was bet- 
ter able to take care of himself than the gallant Captain ? 
If it were not the best thing for the Captain, surely it 
would not have been done. Whom have I defrauded ? 
My Hands are clean ! He bad made a still better pur- 
chase from the Vicar ; but what would have become of 
the /Vicar if he had not been raised up to purchase? And 
was- it not speculative, and was it not possible that be 
should lose all that money, and was it not, on the whole, 
the wisest thing that the Vicar, under his difficulties, could 
have been advised to do ? 

So reasoned the good attorney, as with a languid smile 
and a sigh of content, his long hand laid across the cover 
of the despatch-box by his side, he looked forth through 



408 WVLDER'S HAMD. 

the plate-glass window upon the sunny fields and hedge- 
rows that glided bj him, and felt the blessed assurance, 
" look whatsoever he doeth it shall prosper," mingling in 
the hum of surrounding nature. In this happy state, and 
volunteering all manner of courtesies, opening and shut- 
tin" windows, lending his railway guide aiid his newspapers 
whenever he had an opportunity, he at length reached the 
great London terminus, and was rattling over the me- 
tropolitan pavement, with his hand on his despatch-box, to 
his cheap hotel near the Strand. 



CHAPTER LXIV. 

I EEVISIT BRANDON HALL. 

Rachel Lake was courageous and energetic; and, 
when once she had taken a clear view of her duty, won- 
derfully persistent and impracticable. Her dreadful inter- 
view with Jos Larkin was always in her mind. The 
bleached face, so meek, so cruel, of that shabby spectre, 
in the small, low parlor of Redman's Farm, was always 
before her. There he had spoken the sentences which 
made the earth tremble, and showed her distinctly the 
cracking line beneath her feet, which would gape at his 
word into the fathomless chasm that was to swallow her. 
But, come what might, she would not abandon the Vicar 
and his little boy, and good Dolly, to the arts of that 
abominable magician. 

The more she thought, the clearer was her conviction. 
She had no one to consult with ; she knew the risk of ex- 
asperating that tall man of God, who lived at the Lodge. 



WYLDER'S HAjYJ}. 409 

But, determined to brave all) she ■went down to see Dolly 
and the Vicar at home. 

Poor Dolly was tired ; she had been sitting up all night 
with sick little Fairy. He was better to-day ; but last 
night he had frightened them so, poor lit'tle man ! he be- 
gan to rave about eleven o'clock ; and more or less his 
little mind continued wandering until near six, when he 
fell into a sound sleep, and seemed better for it. 

So Eachel first made her visit to little man, sitting up 
in his bed, very pale and thin, and looking at her, not 
with his pretty smile, but a languid, earnest wonder, and 
not speaking.. How quickly and strikingly sickness tells 
upon children. Little man's frugal store of toys, chiefly 
the gifts of pleasant Rachel, wild beasts, Noah and his sons, 
and part of a regiment of foot soldiers, with -the usual re- 
turn of broken legs and missing arms, stood peacefully 
mingled upon the board across his bed which served as a 
platform. 

But little man was leaning back ; his fingers, once so 
busy, lay motionless on the coverlet, and his tired eyes 
rested on the toys with a joyless, earnest apathy. 

"He looks better — a little better, don't you think; 
just a little better? " whispered his mamma, looking as all 
the rest were, on that wan, sad little face. 

But he really looked worse. 

" Well, he can't look better, you know, dear, till there's 
a decided change. What does Doctor Buddie say ? " 

" He saw him yesterday morning. He thinks it is all 
from his stomach, and he's feverish ; no meat*. Indeed he 
won't eat anything, and you see the light hurts his eyes." 

There was only a chink of the shutter open. 

" Dolly, darling, you and nurse must be so tired sitting 
up. I have a little wine at Redman's Farm. I got it, 
you remember, more than a year ^go, when Stanley said 
^13 



410 WYLDER'S HAND. 

he was coming to pay me a visit. I never take any, and 
a little would be so good for you and poor nurse. I'll 
send some to you." 

So coming down stairs Rachel said, " Is the Vicar at 
home ? " Yes, he was in the study, and there they found 
him brushing his seedy hat, and making ready for his 
country calls in the neighborhood of the town. The 
hour was dull without little Fairy ; but he would soon be 
up and out again, and he would steal up now and see him. 
He could not go out without his little farewell at the bed- 
side, and he would bring him in some pretty flowers. 

" You've seen little Fairy ? " asked the good Vicar, with 
a very anxious smile, " and you think him better, dear 
Miss Lake, don't you ? " 

" Why, I can't say that, because you know, so soon as 
he's better, he'll be quite well ; they make their recoveries 
all in a moment." 

" But he does not look worse ? " said the Vicar, lifting 
his eyes eagerly from his boot which he was buttoning on 
the chair. 

" Well, he does look more tired, but that must be till 
his recovery begins, which will be, please Heaven, im- 
mediately." 

And so they talked over the case of the little man, who 
with ISo'ah and his sons, and the battered soldiers and 
animals before him, was fighting, though they only dimly 
knew it, silently in his little bed, the great battle of life 
or death. 

" Mr. LarlSn came to me the "evening before last," said 
Eachel, " and told me that the little sum I mentioned — 
now don't say a word till you have heard me — was not 
sufficient ; so I want to tell you what I have quite resolv- 
ed on. I have been long intending some time or other to 
change my place of residence, perhaps I shall go to 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 411 

Switzerland, and I have made up my mind to sell my 
rent-charge on the Dulchester estate. It will produce, 
Mr. Young says, a very large sum, and I wish to lend it 
to you, either all or as much as will make you qxiiie com- 
fortable — you must not refuse. I had intended leaving 
it to my dear little man up stairs ; and you must promise 
me solemnly that you will not listen to the advice of that 
bad, cruel man, Mr. Larkin." 

" My dear Miss Lake, you misunderstood him. . But 
what can I say — how can I thank you ? " said the Vicar, 
clasping her hand. 

" A wicked and merciless man, I say," repeated Miss 
Lake. " From my observation of him, I am certain of 
two things — I am sure that he has some reason for think- 
ing that your brother, Mark Wylder, is dead ; and second- 
ly, that he is himself deeply interested in the purchase of 
your reversion. I feel a little ill : Dolly, open the win- 
dow." 

There was a silence for a little while, and Rachel re- 
sumed : — 

" Now, William Wylder, I am convinced, that you and 
your wife (and she kissed Dolly,) and your dear little boy, 
are marked out for plunder — the objects of a conspiracy. ; 
and I'll lose my life, but I'll prevent it." /^^ 

" Now, Willie dear, do you hear that — do you hear 
what she says ? " 

"But Dolly darling — dear Miss Lake there is no 
reason whatever to suppose that poor Mark js dead," said 
the Vicar, very pale. 

" I tell you again, I am convinced the attorney believes 
it. He did not say so, indeed ; but, cunning as he is, I 
think I've quite seen through his plot ; and even in what 
he said to me, there was something that half betrayed him 
every moment. And, Dolly, if you allow this sale, you 



412 WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

deserve thte ruin you are inviting, and the remorse that 
will follow you to your grave. "- 

But respecting good Mr. Larkin, you are, indeed, in 
error ; I am sure you have quite misunderstood him. You 
don't know how kind — how disinterestedly good he has 
been ; and now, my dear Miss Lake, it is too late — quite 
too late." 

" No ; it is not too late. Such wickedness as that can- 
not be lawful — I won't believe the law allows it," cried 
Rachel Lake. " It is all a fraud — even if yoti have 
signed — all a fraud. You must procure able" advice at 
once. Your enemy is that dreadful Mr. Larkin. Write 
to some good attorney in London. I'll pay everything." 

" But, dear Miss Lake, I can't," said the Vicar, de- 
jectedly; "lam bound in honor and conscience not to 
disturb it — I have written to Messrs. Burlington and 
Smith to that effect. I assure you, dear Miss Lake, we 
have not acted inconsiderately — nothing has been done 
without careful and deep consideration." 

"I am going into the town, Dolly, and so are you," 
said Rachel, after a little pause. " Let us go together." 

And to this Dolly readily assented ; and the Vicar, evi- 
dently much troubled in mind, having run up to the nurs- 
ery to see his little man, the two ladies set out together. 
Rachel saw that she had made an impression upon Dolly, 
and was resolved to carry her point. So, in earnest terms, 
again she conjured her, at least, to lay the whole matter 
before some friend on whom she could rely ; and Dolly, 
alarmed and eager, quite agreed with Rachel, that the sale 
must be stopped, and she would do whatever dear Rachel 
bid her. 

" But do you think Mr., Larkin really supposes that poor 
Mark is dead?" 

" I do, dear — I suspect he knows it." 



WFLSER'S HJJVn. 413 

" And what makes you think that, Rachel, darling ? " 

" I can't define — I've no proofs to give you, One 
knows things, sometimes. I perceived it — and I think 
I can't be mistaken ; and now I've said all, and pray ask 
me no more upon that point." 

Rachel spoke with a hurried and fierce impatience, that 
rather startled her companion. 

It is wonderful that she showed her state of mind so little. 
There was, indeed, something feverish, and at times, even 
fierce, in her looks and words. But few would ha,ve guess- 
ed her agony, as she pleaded with the Vicar and his wife ; 
or the awful sense of impending consequences that closed 
over her like the shadow of night, the moment the excite- 
ment of her pleading was over. 

But her warnings and entreaties, I have said, were not 
quite thrown away ; for, although the Vicar was inflexible, 
she had prevailed with his wife, who, at parting, again 
promised Rachel, that if she could do it, the sale should 
be stopped. 

When I returned to Brandon, a few mornings later, 
Captain Lake received me joyfully at his solitary break- 
fast. He was in an intense electioneering excitement. 
The evening papers for the day before lay on the break- 
fast table. 

"A move of some sort suspected — ^the opposition 
prints all hinting at tricks and ambuscades. They are 
whipping their men up awfully. Old Wattles, not half- 
recovered,, went by the early train yesterday, Wealdon 
tells me. It will probably kill him. Stower went up 
the day before. Lee says he saw him at Charteris. He 
never speaks — only a vote — and a fellow that never ap- 
pears till minute." 

" Is Larkin here ? " I asked. 

" 5h, no — run up to town. I'm so glad he's away — 



414 WYLDER'S HMJVn. 

the clumsiest dog in England — nothing clever — no in- 
vention — onlj a bully — the people hate him. Wealdon's 
my man. I wish he'd give up that town-clerkship — it 
can't be worth much, and it's in his way — I'd make it up 
to him somehow. Will you just look at that — it's the 
" Globe" — only six lines, and tell me what you make of 
it?" 

" It does look like it, certainly." 

" Wealdon and I have jotted down a few flames here," 
said Lake, sliding a list of names before me; " you know 
some of them, I think — rather a strong committee ; don't 
you think so ? Those fellows with the red cross before 
have promised." 

" Yes; it's very strong — capital ! " I said, crunching 
my toast. " Is it thought the writs will follow the disso- 
lution unusually quickly ? " 

" They must, unless they want a very late session. But 
it is quite possible the Government may win — a week ago 
they reckoned upon eleven." 

And as we were talking the post arrived. 

" Here they are ! " cried Lake, and grasping the first 
morning paper he could seize on, he tore it open with 
a greater display of energy than I had seen that languid 
gentleman exhibit on any former occasion. 



CHAPTER LXV. 

LADY MACBETH. 



" Here it is," said the Captain. " Beaten " — " three 
votes — .how the devil was that ? — there it is by Jove — 



WYLDER'S HAKD. 415 

no mistake — majority against ministers, three ! Is that 
the ' Times ? ' What does it say ? " 

" A long leader — no resignation — immediate dissolu- 
tion. That is what I collect from it." 

" How could they have miscalculated so ? Swivell, I 
see, voted in the majority ; that's very odd ; and, by 
Jove, there's Surplice, too, and he's good for seven votes. 
Why hia own paper was backing the ministers ! What a 
fellow that is ! That accounts for it all. A difference of 
fourteen votes." 

And thus we went on, discussing this unexpected turn 
of luck and reading snatches of the leading articles in 
different interests upon the subject. 

Then Lake, recollecting his letters, opened a large- 
sealed envelope, with S. C. G. in the corner. 

" This is from Gybes — let us see. Oh ! before the 
division. ' It looks a little fishy,' he says — well, so it 
does — ' We rhay take the division to-night. Should it 
prove adverse, you are to expect an immediate dissolu- 
tion ; this on the best authority. I write to mention this, 
as I may be too much hurried to-morrow.' " 

We were discussing this note when Wealdon arrived. • 

" Well, Captain ; great news, sir. The best thing, I 
take it, could have happened ministers, ha, ha, ha ! A 
rotten house — down with it — blow it up — three votes 
only — but as good as three hundred, for the purpose — 
of the three hundred, grant but three, you know — of 
course, they don't think of resigning." 

" Oh, dear, .no — an immediate dissolution. Read 
that," said Lake, tossing Gybes' note to him. 

" Ho, then, we'll have the writs down hot and heavy. 
We must be sharp. The sheriff's all right ; that's a 
point. You must not lose an hour in getting your com- 
mittee together, and printing your address." 

" Who's on the oiher side ? " 



416 WYLDER'S HAjyPD. 

" You'll have Jennings, of course ; but they are talk- 
ing of four different men, already, to take Sir Harry Twis- 
den's place. He'll resign ; that's past a doubt now. He 
has his retiring address written ; Lord Edward Mordun 
read it ; and he told FitzStephen on Sunday, after church, 
that he'd never sit again." 

" Here, by Jove, is a letter from Mowbray," said Lake, 
opening it. " All about his brother George. Hears I'm 
up for the county. Lord George ready to join and go 
halves. What shall I say ? " 

" Could not have a better man. Tell him you desire 
no better, and will bring it at once before your committee; 
and let him know the moment they meet ; and tell him 1 
say he knows Wealdon pretty well — he may look on it 
as settled. That will be -a, spoke in Sir Harry's wheel." 

" Sir Harry who ? " said Lake. 

" Bracton. I think its only to spoil your game, you 
see," answered Wealdon. 

" Abundance of malice ; but I don't think he's coun- 
tenanced ? " 

" He'll try to get the start of you ; and if he does, one 
or other must go to the wall ; for Lord George is too 
strong to be shook out. Do you get forward at once ; 
that's your plan. Captain." 

Then the Captain recurred to his letters, which were a 
larger pack than usual this morning, chatting all the time 
with Wealdon and me on the tremendous topic, and tossing 
aside every letter that did not bear on the coming strug- 
gle. 

" "Who can this be ? " said Lake, looking at the address 
of one of these. " Very like my hand," and he examined 
the seal. It was only a large wafer-stamp, so he broke it 
open, and drew out a shabby, very ill-written scroll. He 
turned suddenly away, talking the while, but- with his 



WYLDER'8 HAjYV. 41 7 

eyes upon the note, and then he folded, or rather crump- 
led it up, and stuffed it into his pocket, and continued his 
talk ; but it was now plain to me there was something more 
on his mind, and he was thinking of the shabby letter he 
had just received. 

" But, no matter; the election was the pressihg topic, 
and Lake was soon engaged in it again. 

As I could be of no possible use in local details,, I left 
the council of war sitting, intending a stroll in the grounds. 

In the hall, I met the mistress of the house, looking 
very handsome, but with a certain witch-like beauty, very 
pale, something a little haggard in her great, dark eyes, 
and a strange, listening look. Was it watchfulness ? was 
it suspicion ? She was dressed gravely but richly, and 
received me kindly — and, strange to say, with a smile 
that, yet, was not joyful. 

" I hope she is happy. Lake is such a beast ; 1 hope 
he does not bully her." 

In truth, there was in her exquisite features the traces 
of that mysterious misery and fear which seemed to fall 
wherever Stanley Lake's ill-omened confidences were giv- 
en. 

I walked down one of the long alleys, with tall, close 
hedges of beech, as impenetrable as cloister walls to 
sight, and watched the tench basking and flickering in the 
clear pond, and the dazzling swans sailing majestically 
along. 

At the door of her boudoir, Eachel Lake met Dorcas. 

" I am so glad, Radie, dear, you are come. You must 
take off your things, and stay. You must not leave me 
to-night. We'll send home for whatever you wan' t; and 
you won't leave me, Radie, I'm certain." 

" I'll stay, dear, as you wish it," said Rachel, kissing 

her. 

' 13* 



418 WYLDER'S HAND. 

" Did you see Stanley ? I have not seen him to-day," 
said Dorcas. 

" No; dear ; I peeped into the library, but he was not 
there ; and there are two men writing in the Dutch room, 
very busily." 

" It must be about the election." 

" What election, dear ? " asked Kiachel. 

" There is going to be an election for the county, and 
— only think — he intends coming forward. I sometimes 
think he is mad, Badie." 

"I could not have supposed such a thing. If I 
were he, I think I should fly to the antipodes. I should 
change my name, sear my features with vitriol, and learn 
another language. I should obliterate my past self alto- 
gether ; but men are so different, so audacious — some 
men, at least — and Stanley, ever since his ill-omened ar- 
rival at Redman's Farm, last autumn, has amazed and ter- 
rified me." 

" I think, Radie, we have both courage — you have cer- 
tainly ; you have shown it, darling, and you must cease 
to blame yourself I think you a heroine, Radie ; but 
you know / see with the wild eyes of the Brandons." 

" I am grateful, Dorcas, that you don't hate me. Most 
■ women I am sure would abhor me — yes, Dorcas — abhor 
me." 

" You and I against the world, Radie ! " said Dorcas, 
with a wild smile and a dark admiration in her look, and 
kissing Rachel again, " I used to think myself brave ; 
it belongs to women of our blood ; but this is no common 
strain upon courage, Radie. I've grOwn to fear Stanley 
somehow like a ghost ; I fear it is even worse than he 
says," and she looked with a horrible enquiry into Rachel's 
eyes. 

" So do /, Dorcas," said Rachel, in a firm low whisper, 
returning her look as darkly. 



WYLDER'S HJIJVX). 419 

" What's done cannot be undone," said Eachel, sadly, 
after a little pause, unconsciously quoting from a terrible 
soliloquy of Shakespeare. " I know what you mean, 
Eadie ; and you warned me, with a strange second-sight, 
before the evil was known to either of us. It was an 
irrevocable step, and I took it, not seeing _ all that has 
happened it is true ; but forewarned. And this I will say, 
Eadie, if I had known the worst, I think even that would 
not have deterred me. It was madness — it is madness, 
for I love him still. Eachel, though I know him and his 
wickedness, and am filled with horror — I love him des- 
perately." 

" I am very glad," said Eachel, " that you do know 
everything. It is so great a relief to have companionship. 
I often thought I must go mad in my solitude." 

" Poor Eachel ! I think you wonderful — I think you 
a heroine — I do, Eadie ; you and I are made for one 
another — the same blood — something of the Sfime wild 
nature ; I can admire you, and understand you, and will 
always love you." 

" I've been with William Wylder and Dolly. That 
wicked attorney, Mr. Larkin, is resolved on robbing them. 
I wish they had anyone able to advise them. Stanley I 
am sure could save them ; but he does not choose to do it. 
He was always so angry when I urged him to help them, 
that I knew it would be useless asking him ; I don't think 
he knows what Mr. Larkin has been doing ; but, Dorcas, 
I am afraid the very same thought has been in his mind." 

"■ I hope not, Eadie," and Dorcas sighed deeply. 
" Everything is so wonderful and awful in the light that 
has come." 

That morning, poor William Wylder had reqeived a 
letter from Jos Larkin, Esq. mentioning that he had found 
Messrs. Burlington and Smith anything but satisfied with 



420 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

him — the Vicar. What exactly he had done to dis- 
oblige them he could not bring to mind. But " they still 
express themselves dissatisfied upon the point, and appear 
to suspect ^a disposition to shilly-shally." I have said 
" all I could to disabuse them of the unpleasant prejudice ; 
but I think I should hardly be doing my duty if I were 
not to -warn you that you will do wisely to exhibit no 
hesitation in the arrangements by which your agreement 
is to be carried out, and that in the event of your showing 
the slightest disposition to qualify the spirit of your strong 
note to them, or in anywise disappointing their client, you 
must be prepared, from what I know of the firm, for very 
sharp practice indeed." 

This letter would almost seem to have been written 
with a supernatural knowledge of what was passing in 
Gylingden, and was certainly well contrived to prevent 
the Vicar from wavering. 

But all this time the ladies are conversing in Dorcas's 
boudoir. 

"This election frightens me, Kadie — everything 
frightens me now — but this is so audacious. If there be 
powers either in Heaven or hell) it seems like a defiance 
and an invocation. I am glad you are here, Radie , — I 
have grown so nervous — so superstitious, I believe ; 
watching always for signs and omens. Oh, darling, the 
world's ghastly for me now." 

" I wish, Dorcas, we were away — as you used to say 
— in some wild and solitaryre treat, living together — two 
recluses — but all that is visionary — quite visionary 
now." 

Dorcas sighed. 

" You know, Rachel, the world must not see this — we 
will carry our heads high. Wicked men and brave and 
pilfering women ^r- th^t is the history of our family — and 



WYLDER'S HJIJVD. 421 

men and women always quite unlike the rest of the world 
— unlike the human race ; and somehow they interest me 
unspeakably. I wish I knew more about those proud, 
forlorn beauties, whose portraits are fading on the walls. 
When I was a little thing, I used to look at them with a 
feeling of melancholy and mystery. They were in my 
eyes, reserved prophetesses, who could speak, if they would, 
of my own future." 

" A poor support, Dorcas — a broken reed. I wish we 
could find another — the true one, in the present, and in 
the coming time." 

Dorcas smiled faintly, and I think there was a little 
gleam of a ghastly satire in it. I am afraid that part of 
her education which deals with futurity, had been neglect- 
ed. 

" I am more likely to turn into a Lady Macbeth than 
a devote," said she, coldly, with the same painful smile. 
" I found myself last night sitting up in my bed, talking 
in the dark about it." ' 

There was a silence for a time, and Rachel said — 
" It is growing late, Dorcas." 

" But you must not go, Rachel — you must stay and 
keep me company — you must, indeed, Radio," said Dor- 
cas. 

" So I will," she answered; " but I must send a line 
to old Tamar ; and I promised Dolly to go down to her 
to-night, if that darling little boy should be worse — I am 
very unhappy about him." 

" And is he in danger, the handsome little fellow," 
said Dorcas. 

" Very great danger, I fear," said Rachel, 
" But children recover wonderfully. What is his ail- 
ment?" 

" Gastric fever, the Doctor says. I had a foreboding 



422 WYLDER'S HAJ\rj}. 

of evil the moment I saw him — before the poor little man 
was put to his bed." 

Dorcas rang the bell. 

" Now, Radie, if you wish to write, sit down here — 
or • if you prefer a message, Thomas caii take one very 
accurately ; and he shall call at the Vicar's, and see Dolly, 
and bring us word how the dear little boy is. And don't 
fancy, darling, I have forgotten what you said to me about 
duty — though I would call it differently — only I feel so 
wild I can think of nothing clearly yet. But I am mak- 
ing up my mind to a great and bold step, and when I am 
better able, I will talk it over with you — my only friend, 
Rachel." 

And she kissed her. 



CHAPTER LXVI. 

MR. LARKIN IS VIS-A-VIS WITH A CONCEALED COMPANION. 

The time had now arrived when our friend Jos Larkin 
was to refresh the village of Gylingden with his presence. 
He had pushed matters forward with wonderful despatch. 
The deeds, with their blue and silver stamps, were hand- 
somely engrossed — having been approved in draft by 
Crompton S. Kewes, the eminent Queen's Counsel, on a 
case furnished by Jos Larkin, Esq. The Lodge, Brandon 
Manor, Gylingden, on behalf of his client, the Reverend 
William Wylder ; and in like manner on behalf of Stan- 
ley Williams Brandon Lake, of Brandon Hall, in the 
county of — , Esq. 

In neither draft did Jos Larkin figure as the purchaser 
by name. He did not care for advice on any difficulty 



WYLDER'S HAJ\rD. 423 

depending on his special relations to the vendors in both 
these cases. He Avished, as was his custom, everything 
above-board, and such ' ' an opinion " as might be published 
by either client in the " Times " next day if he pleased it. 
Besides these 'matters of Wylder and of Lake, he had 
also a clause to insert in a private Act, on behalf of the 
trustees of the Baptist Chapel, at Naunton Friars ; a 
short deed to be consulted upon on behalf of his client, 
Pudder Swynfen, Esq. of Swynfen Grange, in the same 
county ; and a deed to be executed at Shillingsworth, 
which he would take en route for Gylingden, stopping 
there for that night, and going on by next morning's train 

Those little trips to town paid very fairly. 

In this particular case his entire expenses reached ex- 
actly bl. 3s. and what do you suppose was the good man's 
profit upon that small item ? Precisely 62Z. 7*. ! The 
process is simple. Jos Larkin made his own handsome 
estimate of his expenses, and the value of his time to and 
from London, and then he charged this in its entirety — 
shall we say ' integrity — to each client separately. It 
might have cost him 13Z. 10s. and at that sum his expen- 
ses figured in his ledger ; and as he had five clients on 
this occasion, the total reached 67^. 10s. leaving a clear 
profit, as I have mentioned, of 62Z. 7s. on this item. 

Jos Larkin, Esq. was as punctual as the clock, at the 
terminus. He did not come a minute too soon or too late, 
but precisely at the moment which enabled him, without 
fuss, and without a tiresome wait, to proceed to the de- 
tails of ticket, luggage, selection of place, and ultimate 
ascension thereto. 

So now having taken all measures, gliding among the 
portmanteaus, hand-barrows, and porters, and the clangor- 
ous bell ringing, he mounted, lithe and lank, into his 
place. 



424 WYLDER'B H.iJVD. 

There was a pleasant evening light still, and the gas- 
lamps made a purplish glow against it. The little butter- 
cooler of a glass lamp glimmered from the roof. Mr. Lar- 
kin established himself, and adjusted his rug and mufflers 
about him, for notwithstanding the season, there had been 
some cold, rainy weather, and the evening was sharp; 
and he set his two newspapers, his shilling book, and oth- 
er triumphs of cheap literature in sundry shapes, in the 
vacant seat at his left hand, and made everything hand- 
some about him. He glanced to the other end of the car- 
riage, where sat his solitary fellow-passenger. This gen- 
tleman was simply a mass of cloaks and capes, culminat- 
ing in a queer battered felt hat ; his shoulders were nes- 
tled into the corner, and his face buried among his loose 
mufflers. They sat at corners diagonally opposed, and 
were, therefore, as far apart as was practicable — an ar- 
rangement, not sociable, to be sure, but, on the whole, 
very comfortable, and which neither seemed disposed to 
disturb. 

Mr. Larkin had a word to say to the porter from the 
window, and bought one more newspaper ; and then looked 
out on the lamp-lit platform, and saw the officials loiter- 
ing oif to the clang of the carriage doors ; then came the 
whistle, and then the clank and jerk of the start. 

Jos Larkin tried his newspaper, and read for ten min- 
utes, or so, pretty diligently ; and then looked for a while 
from the window, upon receding hedge-rows and farm- 
steads, and the level and spacious landscape ; and then he 
leaned back luxuriously, his newspaper listlessly on his 
knees, and began to read, instead. 'at his ease, the shape- 
less, wrapt-up figure diagonally opposite. 

The quietude of the gentleman in the far corner was 
quite singular. He produced neither tract, nor newspa- 
per, nor volume — not even a pocket book or a letter. He 



W VLB EM'S HAJVD. 42$ 

brought forth no cigar-case, with the stereotyped, " Have 
you any objection to my smoking a cigar? " He did not 
even change his attitude eve r so little. A burly roll of 
cloaks, rugs, and capes, and loose wrappers, placed in the 
corner,, and tanquam cadaver, passive and motionless. 

As they got on there was more night fog, and the little 
lamp at top shone through a halo. The fellow-passenger 
at the opposite angle lay back, all cloaks and mufllers, 
with nothing distinct emerging but the felt hat at top, 
and the tip — it was only the tip now — of the shining 
shoe on the floor. 

The gentleman was absolutely motionless and silent. 
And Mr. Larkin, though his mind was pretty universally 
of the inquisitive order, began in this particular case to 
feel a special curiosity. It was partly the monotony and 
their occupying the carriage- all to themselves — as the 
two uncommunicative seamen did the Eddystone Light- 
house — but there was, beside, an indistinct feeling, that, 
in spite of all these wrappers and swathings, he knew 
the outlines of that figure ; and yet the likeness must 
have been of the rudest possible sort. 

He could not say that he recognized anything distinct- 
ly — only he fancied that some one he knew was sitting 
there, unrevealed, inside that mass of clothing. And he 
felt moreover, as if he ought fo be able to guess who he 
was. 



CHAPTER LXVII. 

THE COMPANION DISCLOSES HIMSELF. 

But this sort of musing and •wonderment leads to noth- 
ing ; and Mr. Jos Larkin being an active-minded man, 
and practical withal, in a little while shook it oiF, and 
from his breast-pocket took a tiny treasure of a pocket- 
book, in which were some bank-noteSj precious memoran- 
da in pencil, and half-a-dozen notes and letters, bearing 
upon cases and negotiations on which, at this juncture, he 
was working. 

Into these he got, and now and then brought out a let- 
ter bearing on some point of speculation, and read it 
through, and then closed his eyes for three minutes at a 
time, and thought. But he had not his tin boxes there ; 
and, with a man of his stamp, speculation, which goes 
upon guess as to dates and quantities which are all ascer- 
tainable by reference to black and white, soon loses its in- 
terest. And the evidence in his pocket being pretty soon 
exhausted, he glanced again at his companion over the way. 

He had not moved all this while. He had a high stand- 
up collar to the cape he wore, which covered his cheeks 
and nose, and outside was loosely swathed a large, cream- 
colored, cashmere handkerchief. The battered felt hat 
covered his forehead and eyebrows, and left, in fact, but 
a narrow streak of separation between. 

Through this, however, for the first time, Jos Larkin 
now saw the glitter of a pair of eyes gazing at him, he 
fancied. At all events there was the glitter, and the gen- 
tleman was awake. 



WYLDER'S HJIMD. 427 

Jos returned the gentleman's gaze. It was his lofty 
aristocratic stare ; and he expected to see the glittering 
lights that peeped through the dark chink between brim 
and collar shut up under its rebuke. But nothing of the 
kind took place, and the ocular exercises of the attorney- 
were totally ineffectual. 

If the fellow knew that his fixed stare was observed 
through his narrow embrasure — and Larkin thought h.e 
could hardly be insensible to the reproof of his return fire 
— he must be a particularly impertinent person. He fan- 
cied the eyes were laughing. He could not be sure, of 
course, but at all events the persistent stare was extreme- 
ly, and perhaps determinedly, impertinent. Forgetting 
the constitutional canon through which breathes the gen- 
uine spirit of British liberty, he felt for a moment that 
he was such a king as that cat had no business to look at ; 
and he might, perhaps, have politely intimated something 
of the kind, had not the enveloped offender made a slight 
and lazy turn which, burying his chin still deeper in his 
breast, altogether concealed his eyes, and so closed the of- 
fensive scrutiny. 

In making this change in his position, slight as it was, 
the gentleman in the superfluous clothing reminded Mr. Jos 
Larkin very sharply for an instant of — somebody. There 
was the rub ; who could it be ? 

The figure was once more a mere mountain of rug. 

What was the peculiarity in that slight movement — 
something in the knee ? something in the elbow ? some-, 
thing in the general character ? Why had he not spoken 
to him ? The opportunity, for the present, was past. 
But he was now sure that his fellow-traveler was an ac- 
quaintance, who had probably recognized him. 

They were now approaching Shillingsworth, where the 
attorney was to get out, and put up for the night, having 



428 WYLDER'S HAJVn. 

a deed with him to be executed in that town, and so sweet- 
ening his journey with this small incident of profit. 

Now, therefore, looking at his watch, and consulting his 
time-table, he got his slim valise from under on top of 
the seat before him, together with his hat-case, despatch- 
box, stick, and umbrella, and brushed off with his hand- 
kerchief some of the gritty railway dust that lay drifted 
in exterior folds and hollows of his coat, rebuttoned that 
garment with precision, arranged his shirt-collar, stuffed 
his muffler into his coat-pocket, and made generally that 
rude sacrifice to the graces with which natty men precede 
their exit from the dust and ashes of this sort of sepulture. 

At this moment he had just eight minutes more to go, 
and the glitter of the pair of eyes, staring between the 
muffler and the rim of the hat met his view once more. 

Mr. Larkin's cigar-case was open in his hand in a mo- 
ment, and with such a smile as a gent6el perfumer offers his 
wares with, he presented it toward the gentleman who was 
built up in the stack of garments. 

He merely shook his head with the slightest imaginable 
nod and a wave of a pudgy hand in a soiled dog-skin 
glove, which emerged for a second from under a cape, in 
token that he gratefully declined the favor. 

Mr. Larkin smiled and shrugged regretfully, and re- 
placed the case in his coat pocket. Hardly five minutes 
remained now. Larkin glanced round for a topic. 

" My journey is over for the present, sir, and perhaps 
you would find these little things entertaining." 

And he tendered with the same smile " Punch," the 
" Penny Gleaner," and " Grab's Magazine," a religious 
serial. They were, however, similarly declined in pan- 
tomime. 

" He's not particularly polite, whoever he is," thought 
Mr. Larkin, with a sniff. However he tried the effect of 



WVLDER'S HAJVJ}. 429 

a direct observation. So getting one seat nearer, he said : — 

" Wonderful place Shillingsworth, sir ; one does not 
really, until one has visited it two or three times over, at 
all comprehend its wealth and importance ; and how just-. 
ly high it deserves to hold its head amongst the provincial 
emporia of our productive industry." 

The shapeless traveler in the corner touched his ear 
with his pudgy dog-skin fingers, and shook his hand and 
head a little, in'token either that he was deaf, or the noise 
such as to prevent his hearing, and in the next moment 
the glittering eyes closed, and the pantomimist appeared 
to be asleep. 

And now, again, the train subsided to a stand-still, and 
"Shillingsworth," resounded through the night air ; and 
Larkin scrambled forward to the window, by which sat the 
enveloped gentleman, and called the porter, and, with 
many unheeded apologies, pulled out his various proper- 
ties, close by the knees of the tranquil traveler. 

So Mr. Lar-kin was on the platform, and his belongings 
stowed away against the wall of the station-house. 

He marde an enquiry of the guard, with whom he was 
acquainted, about his companion ; but the guard knew 
nothing of the " party," neither did the porter, to whom 
the guard put a similar question. 

So, as Larkin walked down the platform, the whistle 
sounded, and the train glided forward, and as it passed him, 
the gentleman in the cloak and queer hat was looking out. 
A lamp shone full on him. Mr. Larkin's heart stood still 
for a moment, and then bounded up as if it would choke 
him. 

" It's him, by — ! " and Mr. Larkin, forgetting syntax, 
and propriety, and religion, all together, and making 'a 
frantic race to keep up with the train, shouted — 

" Stop it, stop it — hollo ! — stop — stop — ho, stop ! " 



430 WVLDER'S HAJVV. 

" Forgot summat, sir," said the porter, touching his hat. 

" Yes — signal — stop him, can you ? " 

The porter only scratched his head, under his cap, and 
smiled sheepishly after the train. Jos Larkin knew, the 
next moment, he had talked nonsense. 

"I — I — yes — I have — have you an engine here ? — 
express — I'll pay anything." 

But, no, there was no " engine — not nearer than the 
junction, and she might not be spared." 

" How far is the junction? " 

" Nineteen and a-half." 

" Nineteen miles ! They'll never bring me there, by 
horse, under two hours, they are so cursed tedious. Why 
have not you a spare engine at a place like this ? Shillings- 
worth ! Nice management ! Are you certain ? Where's 
the station-master ? " 

All this time he kept staring after the faint pulsations 
on the air that indicated the flight of the engine. 

But it would not do. The train — the image upon 
earth of the irrevocable, the irretrievable — was gone 
neither to be overtaken nor recalled. The telegraph, was 
not then, as now, whispering secrets all over England, at 
the rate of two hundred miles a second, and five shillings 
per twenty words. Larkin would have given large money 
for an engine, to get up with the train that was now some 
five miles on its route, at treble, quadruple, the common 
cost of such a magical appliance ; but 'all was vain. He 
could only look and mutter after it wildly. Vain to con- 
jecture for what station that traveler in the battered hat 
was bound ! Idle speculation ! Mere distraction ! 

Only that Mr. Larkin was altogether the man he was, 
I think he would have cursed freely. 



CHAPTER LXVIII. 

OF A SPECTRE WHOM OLD TAMAR SAW. 

Little Fairy, all this -while, continued, in our Church 
language, " sick and weak." The Vicar was very sorry, 
but not afraid. His little man was so bright and merry, 
that he seemed to him the very spirit of life. He could 
not dream of his dying. It was sad, to be sure, the little 
man so many days in his bed, too languid to care for toy 
or story, quite silent, except when, in the night time, those 
weird monologues began which showed that the fever had 
reached his brain. The tones of his pleasant little voice, 
in those sad flights of memory and fancy, busy with familiar 
scenes and occupations, sounded wild and plaintive in his 
ear. And when " Wapsie " was mentioned, sometimes the 
Vicar's eyes filled, but he smiled through this with a kind of 
gladness at the child's affection. " It will soon be over, 
my darling ! You will be walking with Wapsie in a week 
again." 

Doctor Buddie had been six miles away that evening 
with a patient, and looked in at the Vicar's long after the 
candles were lighted. 

He. was not satisfied with little Fairy — not at all sat- 
isfied. He put his hand under the clothes and felt his 
thin, slender limbs — thinner than ever now. Dry and 
very hot they were — and little man babbling his nonsense 
about. little boys, and his " Wapsie," and toys, and birds, 
and the mill-stream, and the church -yard — of which, 
with so strange a fatality, children, not in romance only, 
but reality, so often prattle in their feverish wanderings. 



432 WYLDER'S H.iJ\rD. 

Doctor Buddie was dark and short in his answers to vol- 
uble little Mrs. Wylder — though, of course, quite respect- 
ful — and the Vicar saw him down the narrow stairs, and 
they turned into the study for a moment, and, said Bud- 
die, in an under tone — 

" He's very ill — I can say nothing else." 

And there was a pause. - 

The little color he had receded from the Vicar's face, 
for the looks and tones of good-natured Buddie were not 
to be mistaken. He was reading little Fairy's death war- 
rant. 

"I see, Doctor — I see; you think he'll die," said 
the Vicar, staring at him. " Oh Doctor, my little 
Fairy!" ' 

" With children you know, I — I always say there's a 
chance — but you are right to look the thing in the face 
— ajid I'll be here the first call in the morning ; and you 
know where to find me, in the meantime ; " and the Doc- 
tor shook hands very hard with the Vicar at the hall-door, 
and made his way homeward — the Vicar's eyes following 
him till he was out of sight. 

Then William Wylder shut the hall-door, and turned 
about. 

Little Fairy's drum was hanging from a peg on the 
hat-stand — the drum that was to sound no more in the 
garden, or up and down the hall, with the bright-haired lit- 
tle drummer's song. There would bo no more interruption 
now — the Vicar wauld write his sermons undisturbed : 
no more consolations claimed — no more broken toys to 
be mended — some of the innocent little rubbish lay in 
the study. It should never move from that — nor his 
drum — nor that little hat and cape, hanging on their 
peg, with the tiny boots underneath. 

No more piwttling at unseasonable times — no more 



WYLDER'S HJiJVD. 433 

crying — no more singing — no more laughing ; all these 
interruptions were quiet now, and altogether gone — 
" Little man ! little Fairy ! Oh, was it possible ! " 

Poor Dolly ! Her Willie would not tell her yet. He 
kneeled down in the study — " Little man's' top, and some 
cut paper nondescripts, were lying where he had left 
them, at his elbow — and he tried to pray, and then he 
remembered that his darling ought to know that he was 
going into the presence of his Maker. 

Yes he would tell poor Dolly first, and then his little 
man. He would repeat his hymn with him, and pray — 
and so he went up the nursery stairs. 

Poor Dolly, very tired, had gone to lie down for a lit- 
tle. He would not disturb her — no, let her enjoy, for 
an hour more, her happy illusion. 

When he went into the nursery little Fairy was sitting 
up, taking his medicine ; the nurse's arm round his thin 
shoulders. He sat down beside him, weeping gently, his 
face turned a little away, and his hand on the coverlet. 

Little man looked wonderingly from his tired eyes on 
Wapsie, and his thin fingers crept on his hand, and Wap- 
sie turned about, drying his eyes, and said — 

" Little man ! my darling ! " 

" He's like himself, sir, while he's sitting up — his lit- 
tle head quite right again." 

" My head's quite right, Wapsie," the little man whis- 
pered, sadly. 

"Thank God, my darling!" said the Vicar. The 
tears were running down his cheeks while he parted little 
Fairy's golden hair with his fingers. 

" When I am quite well again," whispered the littl_e 
man, " won't you bring me to the Castle meadow, where 
the wee river is, and we'll float races with daisies and 
"butter-cups — the way you did on my birth-day." 
19 



434 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

" They say that little mannikin " — suddenly the Vi- 
car stopped: " They say that little mannikin -won't get 
T?ell." 

" And am I always to be sick, here in my little bed, 
Wapsie ? " whispered little Fairy, in his dreamy, earnest 
way, that was new to him. 

" No, darling; not always sick : you'll be happier than 
ever — but not here ; little man will be taken Ijy his Sav- 
iour, that loves him best of all — and he'll be in Heaven 

— and only have a short time to wait, and may be his 
poor Wapsie will come to him, please God, and his darling 
mamma — and we'll all be happy together, for ever, and 
never be sick or sorry any more, my treasure — my little 
Fairy — my darling." 

When in a little time, poor Dolly returned, her Willie 
took her round the waist, as on the day when she accepted 
him, and led her tenderly into the other room, and told 
her all, and they hugged and wept together. 

" Gh, Dolly, Dolly ! " 

"Oh, Willie, darling! — Oh, Willie, our precious 
treasure — our only one ! " ^ 

And so they walked up and down that room, his arm 
round her waist, and in that sorrowful embrace, murmur- 
ing amid their sobs to one another, their thoughts and re- 
membrances of " little man." How soon the treasure 
grows a retrospect ! 

Then Dolly bethought her of her promise to Rachel. 

" She made me promise to send for her if he was worse 

— she loved him so — everyone loved him — theycould 
not help — oh, Willie ! our bright darling." 

" I think, Dolly, we could not live here. I'd like to 
go on some mission, and maybe come back in a great many 
years — maybe, Dolly, when we are old. I'd like to see 
the place again - — and — and the walks — but not, I think, 
for a long time. He was such a darling." 



WYLDER'S HjlJVn. 435 

Perhapa the Vicar was thinking of the church-yard, 
and how he would like, when his time came, to lie beside 
the golden-haired little comrade of his w^Jks. So Dolly 
despatched the messenger with a lantern, and thus it was 
there came a knocking at the door of Kedman's Farm at 
that unseasonable hour. For some time old Tamar heard 
the clatter in her sleep, disturbing and mingling with her 
dreams. But in a while she wakened quite, and heard the 
double knocks one after another in quick succession ; and 
huddling on her clothes, and muttering to herself all the 
way, she got into the hall, and standing a couple of yards 
away from the door, answered in shrill and querulous 
tones, and questioning the messenger in the same breath. 

How could she tell what it might or might not portend ? 
Her alarms quickly subsided, however, for she knew the 
voice well. 

So the story was soon told. Poor little Fairy ; it was 
doubtful if he was to see another morning ; and the maid 
. being wanted at home, old Tamar undertook the message 
to Brandon Hall, where her young mistress was, and sal- 
lied forth in her cloak and bonnet, under the haunted trees 
of Redman's Dell. 

Her route lay, as by this time my reader is well aware, 
by that narrow defile reached from Redman's Farm by a 
pathway which scales a flight of rude steps, the same 
which Stanley Lake and his sister had mounted on the 
night of Mark Wylder's disappearance. 

Tamar knew the path very well. It was on the upper 
level of it that she had held that conference with Stanley 
Lake, which obviously referred to that young gentleman's 
treatment of the vanished Mark. As she came to this 
platform, round which the trees receded a little so as to 
admit the moonlight, the old woman was tired. 

She would have gladly chosen another spot to rest in, 



-±36 WTLDER'S HAJVD. 

but fatigue was imperious ; and she sat down under the 
grej stone which stood perpendicularly there, on what had 
once been the step of a stile, leaning against the rude col- 
umn behind her. 

As she sat here she heard the clank of a step approach- 
ing measuredly from the Brandon side. It was twelve 
o'clock now ; the chimes from the Gylingden church-tower 
had proclaimed that in the distance some minutes before." 
The honest Gylingden folk seldom heard the tower chimes 
tell eleven, and gentle and simple had, of course, been 
long in their beds. 

The old woman had a secret hatred of this place, and 
the unexpected sounds made her hold her breath. She 
peeped round the stone, in whose shadow she was sitting. 
The steps were not those of a man walking briskly with 
a purpose ; they were the desultory strides of a stroller 
lounging out an hour's watch. The steps approached. 
The figure was visible — that of a short broadish man, 
with a mass of cloaks, rugs, and mufflers across his arm. 

Carrying them with a sort of swagger, he came slowly 
up to the part of the pathway opposite to the pillar, 
where he dropped those draperies in a heap upon the grass ; 
and availing himself of the clear moon-light, he stopped 
nearly confronting her. 

It was the face of Mark Wylder — she knew it well — 
but grown fat and broader, and there was — but this she 
could not see distinctly — a purplish scar across his eye- 
brow and cheek. She quivered with terror lest he should 
have seen her, and might be meditating some mischef. 
But she was seated close to the ground, several yards 
away, and in the sharp shadow of the old block of stone. 

He consulted his watch, and she sat fixed and powerless 
as a portion of the block on which -she leaned, staring up 
at this, to her, terrific apparition. Mark Wylder's return 
boded, she believed, something tremendous. 



WrZDER'S H^JVD. 437 

She saw the glimmer of the gold watch, and, distinctly, 
the great black whiskers, and the face pallid in the moon- 
light. She was afraid for a minute, during which he loi- 
tered there, that he was going to seat himself upon the 
cloaks which he had just thrown upon the ground, and 
felt that she could not possibly escape detection for many 
seconds more. But she was relieved ; for, after a short 
pause, leaving these still upon the ground,' he turned, 
and walked slowly, like a policeman on his beat, toward 
Brandon. 

With a gasp she' began to recover herself; but she felt 
too faint and ill to get up and commence a retreat towards 
Kedman's Farm. Besides, she was sure he would return 
— she could not tell how soon — and although the clump 
of alders hid her from view, she could . not tell but that 
the next moment -would disclose his figure retracing his 
leisurely steps, and ready to pursue and overtake, if by a 
precipitate movement she had betrayed her presence. 

In due time the same figure, passing at the same rate, 
did emerge again, and approached just as before, only this 
time he was carelessly examining some small but clumsy 
steel instrument which glittered occasionally in the light. 
From Tamar's description of it, I conclude it was a rcr 
Tolver. 

He passed the pile of cloaks but a few steps, and again 
turned toward Brandon. So soon as he was once more 
concealed by the screen of underwood, old Tamar, now 
sufficiently recovered, crept hurriedly away in the opposite 
direction, half dead with terror, until she had descended 
the steps, and was buried once more in friendly darkness. 
Old Tamar did not stop at Redman's Farm ; she passed it 
and the mills, and never stopped till she reached the 
Vicarage. In the hall, she felfc for a moment quite over- 
powered, and sitting in one of the old chairs that did duty 



438 WYLDER-S HAJVD. 

there, she uttered a deep groan, and looked -with such a' 
gaze in the face of the maid who had admitted her, that 
she thought the old woman was dying. 

Sick rooms, even when, palpably, doctors, nurses, friends, 
have all ceased to hope, are not to those who stand in the 
very nearest and most tender relations to the patient, al- 
together chambers of despair. There are those who hov- 
er about the bed, and note every gleam and glow of sub- 
siding life, and will read in sunset something of the col- 
ors of the dawn, and cling wildly to these hallucinations 
of love ; and no one has the heart to tear them from them. 

Just now, Dolly fancied that " little man was better — 
the darling ! the treasure ! oh, precious little man ! He 
was comingjback ! " 

So, she ran down with' this light of hope in her face, 
and saw old Tamar in the hall, and gave her a glass of the 
wine which Rachel had provided, and the old woman's 
spirit came again. 

" She was glad — yes, very glad. She was thankful to 
hear the dear child was better." JBut there was a weight 
upon her soul, and a dreadful horror on her countenance 
still. 

" Will you please, ma'ajn, write a little note — my old 
hand shakes so, she could hardly read my writing — to 
my mistress — Miss Radie, ma'am. I see pen and ink on 
the table there. I was not able to go up to the Hall, 
ma'am, with the message. There's something on the road 
I could not pass." 

" Something ! What was it ? " said Dolly, staring with 
round eyes in the old woman's woeful face, her curiosity 
aroused for a moment. 

" Something, ma'am — a person — I can't exactly tell 
— above the steps, in the Blackberry path. It would cost 
my young mistress her life. For Heaven's sake, ma'am, 



WYLBER'S HAJVB. 439 

■write, and promise, if you send for her, she shall get the 
note." 

So, Dolly made the promise, and bringing old Tamar 
■with her into the study, penned these odd lines from her 
dictation, merely adjusting the grammar. 

" Miss Radie, Deak, — If coming down to-night from 
Brandon, this is to tell you, it is as much as your life is 
worth to pass the Blackberry walk above the steps. My 
old eyes have seen him there, walking back and forward, 
lying at catch for some one, this night — the great enemy 
of man ; you can suppose in what shape. 

" Your dutiful and loving servant, 

"•Tamak." 

So, old Tamar, after a little, took her departure ; and it 
needed a great effort to enable her to take the turn up the 
dark and lonely mill-road, leading to Redman's Farm ; so 
much did she dread the possibility of again encountering 
the person she had just described. 



CHAPTER LXIX. 

THE MEETING IN THE LONG POND ALLEY. 

I SUPPOSE there were few waking heads at this hour in 
all the wide parish of Gylingden, though many a usually 
idle one was now busy enough about the great political 
struggle which was to muster its native forces, both in 
borough and county, and agitate these rural regions with 
the roar and commotion of civil strife. 



440 WYLOER'S HAJVD. 

But generals must sleep like other men ; and even Tom 
Wealdon was snoring in the fairy land of dreams. . 

The night was very still — a sharp night, with a thin 
moon, like a scimitar, hanging bright in the sky, and a 
myriad of intense stars blinking in the heavens, above the 
steep roofs and spiral chimneys of Brandon Hall, and the 
ancient trees that surrounded it. 

It was late in the night, as we know. The family, ac- 
cording to their custom, had sought their slumbers early ; 
and the great old house was perfectly still. 

One pair, at least, of eyes, however, were wide open ; 
one head busy; and one person still in his daily cos- 
tume. This was Mr. Larcom — the grave major domo, 
the bland and attached butler. He was seated in that 
small room or closet which he had, years ago, appropriat- 
ed as his private apartment. It is opposite the house- 
keeper's room — a sequestered, philosophic retreat. He 
was not busy about his plate, nor balancing the cellar 
book, nor even perusing his Bible. The fact is, he was 
engaged over a letter, the writing of which, considering 
how accomplished a gentleman he was, he had found rath- 
er laborious and tedious. The penmanship was, I am 
afraid, clumsy, and the spelling, here and there, irregular. 
It was finished hot^ever, and he was now reading it over 
with care. 

It was thus expressed : — 

" Rbspectbt Sik, — In accordens with your disier, i av 
took my pen to say a fue words. There has cum a leter 
for a sertun persen this morning, with a Lundun posmark, 
and i do not now hand nor sele, but bad writting, which i 
have not seen wot contanes, but I may, for as you told me 
offen, you are anceus for welfare of our famly, as i now 
to be no more than trewth, so I am anceus to ascest you 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 441 

sir, wich my conseynce is satesfid, but leter as trubeled a 
sertun persen oufull, hoo i new was engry, and look oufull 
put about, wich do not oflfen apen, and you may sewer 
there is sumthing in wind, he is alday so oufull peefish, 
you will not thing worse of me speeken plane as you 
disier, there beeing a deel to regret for frends of the old 
famly i feer in a sertun resent marrege, if i shud lern be 
chance contense of letter i will sewer rite you. — i Ee- 
mane your humbel servant, 

" John Lakcom." 

Just as grave Mr. Larcom had ended the perusal of 
this bulletin, he heard a light step on the stair, at the 
end of the passage, which made his manly heart jump un- 
pleasantly within his fat ribs. He thrust the unfold- 
ed letter roughly into the very depths of his breeches 
pocket, and blew out both candles ; and then listened, as 
still as a; mouse. 

What frightened him was the certainty that the step, 
which he well knew, was Stanley Lake's. And Stanley 
being a wide-awake and violent person, and his measures 
sharp and reckless, Mr. Larcom cherished a nervous res- 
pect for him. 

He listened; the Captain's step came lightly to the 
foot of the stairs, and paused. Mr. Larcom prepared to 
be fast asleep in the chair, in the event of the Captain's 
making a sudden advance, and entering his sanctum. But 
this movement was not executed. 

There was a small door at the foot of the stairs. It 
shut with a spring lock, of which Captain Lake had a 
latch-key. Mr. Larcom accidentally had another — a 
cylindrical bit of steel, with a hinge in the end of it, and 
a few queer wards. 

Now, of ttis little door he heard the two iron bolts 
19* 



442 / WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

stealthily drawn, and then the handle of the spring-lock 
turned, and the door cautiously opened, and as gently 
closed. 

Mr. Larcom's fears now naturally subsided, and curiosity 
as naturally supervened. He drew near his window ; and 
it was well he had extinguished his lights^ for as he did so, 
Captain Lake's light figure, in a gray paletot and cloth 
cap, glided by like a spirit in the faint moonlight. 

Mr. Larcom had no theory whatsoever to account for 
this procedure on the part of his master. It must be 
something very extraordinary, and well worth investigating 
— of course, for the benefit of the family — which could 
have evoked the apparition which had just crossed his 
window. With his eyes close to the window pane, he saw 
his master glide swiftly along the short terrace which 
covers this side of the house, and disappear down the steps, 
like a spectre sinking into the earth. 

It is a meeting, thought Mr. Larcom, taking courage, 
for he already felt something of the confidence and supe- 
riority of possessing a secret ; and as quickly as might 
be, the trust-^yorthy man, with his latch-key in his pocket, 
softly opened the portal through which the object of his 
anxiety had just emerged, closed the door behind him, and 
stood listening intently in the recess of the entrance, 
where he heard the now more careless step of the 
Captain, treading, as he thought, the broad yew-walk, 
which turns at a right angle at the foot of the terrace 
step. The black yew hedge was a perfect screen. 

Here was obviously presented a chance of obtaining the 
command of a secret of greater or less importance. It 
was a considerable stake to play for, and well worth a 
trifling risk. 

Therefore, with decision and caution, he followed Cap- 
tain Lake's march, and reaching the yew-walk, he saw the 



WYLDER'S HAJSTD. 443 

slim figure in the cap and paletot turn the corner, and 
enter the broad walk between the two wall-like beech 
hedges, which led direct to the first artificial pond — a 
long, narrow parallelogram, round which the broad walk 
passed in two straight linos, fenced with the towering 
beech hedges, shorn as smooth as the walls of a nunnery. 

When the butler reached the point at which Captain 
Lake had turned, he found himself all at once within fifty 
steps of that eccentric gentleman, who was talking, but 
in so low a tone, that not even the sound of the voices 
reached him, with rather a short, broad-shouldered person, 
buttoned up in a surtout, and wearing a queer, German- 
esque, felt hat, battered and crushed a good deal. 

Mr. Larcom held his breath. He was profoundly inter- 
ested. After a while, with an oath, he exclaimed — 

" That's him .' " . 

Then, after another pause he gasped another oath : — ■ 

"It whim!" 

The square-built man in the surtout had a great pair 
of black whiskers ; and as he stood opposite Lake, convers-^ 
ing, with, now arid again, an earnest gesture, he showed a 
profile which Mr. Larcom knew very well ; and now they 
turned and walked slowly side by side along the broad 
walk by that perpendicular wall of crisp brown leaves, he 
recognised also a certS-in hitch in his shoulder, which 
made him swear and asseverate again. 

He would have given something to hear what was pass- 
ing. He thought uneasily whether there might not be a 
side-path or orifice anywhere through which he might 
creep so as to get to the other side of the hedge and lis- 
ten. But there was no way^ and he must rest content 
with such report as his eyes might furnish. 

" They're not quarrelling no ways," murmured he. 

And indeed, they walked together, stopping now and 



444 WYLJOER'S HAJ\rD. 

again, as it seemed, very amicably. Captain Lake seemed 
to have most to say. 

" He's awful cowed, he is ; I never did think to see Mr. 
Wylder so affeard of Lake ; he is affeard, yes he is — 
that h6 is." 

And indeed there was an indescribable air of subservi- 
ence in the demeanor of the square-built gentleman very 
different from what Mark Wylder once showed. 

He saw the Captain take from the pocket of his paletot 
a square box or packet, it might be jewels or only papers, 
and hand them to his companion, who popped them into 
his left-hand surtout pocket, and kept his hand there as 
if the freightage were specially valuable. 

Then they talked earnestly a little longer, standing to- 
gether by the pond ; and then, side-by-side, they paced 
down the broad walk by its edge. It was a long walk. 
Honest Larcom would have followed if there had been any 
sort of cover to hide his advance ; but there being nothing 
of the kind he was fain to abide at his corner. Thence 
he beheld them come at last slowly to a stand-still, talk 
evidently a little more, and finally they shook hands — an- 
indefinable something still of superiority in Lake's air — 
and parted. 

The Captain was now all at once walking at a swift 
pace, alone, towards Larcom's post of observation, and his 
secret confederate nearly as rapidly in an opposite direc- 
tion. It would not do for the butler to be taken or even 
seen by Lake, nor yet to be left at the outside of the door 
and barred out. So the Captain had hardly commenced 
his homeward walk, when Larcom, though no great runner, 
threw himself into an agitated amble, and reached and 
entered the little door just in time to escape observation. 
He had not been two minutes in his apartment again when 
he once more beheld the figure of his master cross the 



WYLDER'S IMJVD. 445 

window, and heard the small door softly opened and closed, 
and the bolts slowly and cautiously drawn again into their 
places. Then there was a pause. Lake was listening to 
ascertain whether anyone was stirring, and being satisfied, 
reascended the stairs, leaving the stout and courteous but- 
ler ample matter for romantic speculation. 

It was now the butler's turn to listen, which he did at 
the half-opened door of his room. When he was quite 
assured that all was quiet, he shut and bolted his door, 
closed the window-shutters, and relighted his pair of" wax 
candles. 

Mr. Larcom was a good deal excited. He hgd seen 
strange things that night. He was a good deal blown and 
heated by his run, and a little wild and scared at the 
closeness of the Captain's unconscious pursuit. His head 
beside was full of amazing conjectures. After a while he 
took his crumpled letter from his pocket, unfolded and 
smoothed it, and wrote upon a blank half-page — 

" Respected Sir, — Since the above i ave a much to 
tel mos surprisen, the gentleman you wer anceous of tid- 
ing mister M. W. is cumprivet, and him and master met 
tonite nere 2 in morning, in the long pond allee, so is 
near home when we supposed, no more at present sir from 

" your humbel servent John 
" Laecom. 

" i shall go to dolington day arter to-morrow by eleven 
o'clock trane if you ere gong, sir." 

When the attorney returned, between eleven and twelve 
o'clock next morning, this letter awaited him. It did 
not, of course, surprise him, but it conclusively corrobo- 
rated all its inferences. 



446 WYLDER'S HAJVn. 

Here had been Mark Wylder. He had stopped at Dol- 
lington, as the attorney suspected he would, and he had 
kept trjst, in the Brandon grounds, with sly Captain Lake, 
whose relations with him it became now more difficult 
than ever clearly to comprehend. 

Wylder was plainly under no physical coercion. He 
had come and gone unattended. For one reason or other 
he was, at least, as strongly interested as Lake in main- 
taining secrecy. 

That Mark Wylder was living was the grand fact with 
which he had just then to do. How near he had been to 
purchasing the Vicar's reversion ! . The engrossed deeds 
lay in the black box there. And yet it might be all true 
about Mark's secret marriage. At that moment there 
might be a whole rosary of sons, small and great, to in- 
tercept the inheritance ; and the Reverend William Wyl- 
der might have no more chance of the estates than he 
had of the crown. 



CHAPTER LXX. 

. SIR HAKRY BRACTON'S INVASION OF GYLINGDEN. 

• 

Jim Button had not turned up since, and his letter was 
one of those mares' nests of which gentlemen in Mr. Lar- 
kin's line of business have so large an experience. Of 
Mark Wylder not a trace was discoverable. His enquir- 
ies on this point were, of course, conducted with caution 
and remoteness. Gylingden, however, was one of those 
places which, if it knows anything, is sure to find a way 
of telling it, and the attorney was soon satisfied that Mark's 
secret visit had been conducted with sufficient caution to 
baffle the eyes and ears of the good folk of the town. 



WYLDER'S HJIJVD. 447 

Well, one thing was plain. The purchase of the re- 
version was to wait, and fraudulent as was the price at 
which he had proposed to buy it, he was now resolved to 
get it for less than half that sum, and he wrote a short 
note to the Vicar, which he forthwith despatched. 

In the meantime there was not a moment to be lost in 
clenching the purchase of Five Oaks. And Mr. Jos Lar- 
kin, with one of his "young men" with him in the 
tax-cart, reached Brandon Hall . in a marvellously short 
time after his arrival at home. 

Jos Larkin, his clerk, and the despatch-box, had a short 
wait in the Dutch room, before his admission to the library, 
where an animated debate was audible. The tremendous 
contest impending over the county was of course the 
theme. In the Dutch room, where' they waited, there was 
a large table, with a pyramid of blank envelopes in the 
middle, and ever so many cubic feet of canvassing circu- 
lars, six chairs, and pens and ink. The clerks were in 
the housekeeper's room at that moment, partaking of re- 
freshment. There was a gig in the court-yard, with a 
groom at the horse's head, and Larkin, as he drew up, 
saw a chaise driving round_to the stable yard. People of 
all sorts were coming and going, and Brandon Hall was 
already growing like an inn. 

" How d'ye do, dear Larkin?" said Captain Brandon 
Stanley Lake, the hero of all this debate and commotion, 
smiling his customary sly greeting, and extending his slim 
hand across the arm of his chair — " I'm so sorry you 
were away — this thing has come after all, so suddenly — 
we are getting on famously though — but I'm awfully 
fagged." And, indeed, he looked pale and tired, though 
smiling. " I've a lot of fellows with me; they've just 
run into luncheon ; won't you take something ? " 

But Jos Larkin, smiling after his sort, excused himself. 



448 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

He was glad they had a moment to themselves. He had 
brought the money, which he knew would be acceptable 
at such a moment, and he thought it would be desirable 
to sign and seal forthwith, to which the Captain, a little 
anxiously, agreed. So he. got in one of the clerks who 
were directing the canvassing circulars, and gave him the 
draft, approved by his counsel, to read aloud, while he 
followed with his eye upon the engrossed deed. 

The attorney told down the money in bank bills. He 
fancied that exception might be taken to his cheque for so 
large a sum, and was eager to avoid delay, and came from 
London so provided. 

The Captain was not sorry, for in truth he was in rath- 
er imminent jeopardy just then. He had spoken truth, 
strangely enough, when he mentioned his gambling debts 
as an incentive to his marriage with the heiress of Bran- 
don, in that Sunday walk with Rachel in the park ; and 
hardly ten minutes had passed when Melton Hervey, trust- 
iest of aide-de-camps was on his way to Dollington to make 
a large lodgment to the Captain's credit in the county bank, 
and to procure a letter of credit for a stupendous sum in 
favor of Messrs. Hiram and Jacobs, transmitted under cov- 
er to Captain Lake's town solicitor. The Captain had sign- 
ed, sealed, and delivered, murmuring that formula about 
hand and seal, and act and deed, and Dorcas glided in like a 
ghost, and merely whispering an enquiry to Lake, did like- ■ 
wise, the clerk deferentially putting the query, " this is 
your hand and seal, &c.? " and Jos Larkin drawing a 
step or two backward. 

Of course the lady saw that lank and sinister man of 
God quite distinctly, but she did not choose to do so, and 
Larkin, with a grand sort of prescience, foresaw a county 
feud between the Houses of Five Oaks and Brandon, and 
now the lady had vanished. The money, carefully count- 



WYLDER'S HJIJVD. 449 

ed, was rolled in Lake's pocket-book, and the bright new 
deed which made Jos Larkin, of the Lodge, Esq. master 
of Five Oaks, was safely locked into the box, under his 
long arm, and the attorney vanished, bowing very much, 
and concealing his elation under a solemn sort of nonchal- 



The note, which by this time the Vicar had received, 
though short, was on the whole, tremendous. It said : — 



'■{Private.^ 
" Rev. and Dear Sib, — I have this moment arrived 
from London, where I regret to state the negotiation on 
which we both relied to carry you comfortably over your 
difficulties has fallen through, in consequence of what I 
cannot but regard as the inexcusable caprice of the intend- 
ing purchaser. He declines stating any reason for his 
withdrawal. I fear that the articles were so artfully framed 
by his solicitors, that we shall find it impossible to compel 
him to carry out what, in the strongest terms, I have rep- 
resented to Messrs. Burlington and Smith as a bargain 
irrevocably concluded in point of honor and morality. The . 
refusal of their client to make the proposed investment has 
alarmed those gentlemen, I regret to add, for the safety of 
their costs, which, as I before apprised you, are, though I 
cannot say excessive, certainly very heavy ; and I fear 
we must be prepared for extreme measures upon their part. 
I have carefully reconsidered the very handsome proposal 
which Miss Lake was so good as to submit ; but the result is 
that, partly on technical, and partly on other grounds, I 
continue of the clear opinion that the idea is absolutely im- 
practicable, and must be peremptorily laid aside in attempt- 
ing to arrive at an estimate of any resources which you may 
be conscious of commanding. If, under these untoward cir- 
cumstances, you still think I can be of any use to you. 



450 WYLDER'S HAJVn. 

may I beg that you will not hesitate to say how. I re- 
main, my dear and reverend sir, with profound regrets 
and sympathy, yours very sincerely, 

" Jos. H. Laekin." 

He had already imported the H. which was to germinate, 
in a little while, into Howard. 

The screw was now twisted pretty well home upon the 
poor Vicar, who, if he had any sense at all, would, re- 
membering Larkin's expression only a week before, sug- 
gest his buying, and so, the correspondence would disclose, 
in a manner most honorable to the attorney, the history 
of the purchase. 

But the clouds had begun to break, and the sky to clear, 
over the good Vicar, just at the point where they had 
been darkest and most menacing. 

Little Fairy, after all, was better. Good-natured Bud- 
die had been there at nine, quite amazed at his being so 
well, still reserved and cautious, and afraid of raising 
hopes. But when he came back at eleven, and had com- 
pleted his examination, he told them, frankly, that there 
was a decided change ; in fact, that the little man, with, 
of course, great care, might do very well, and ouff/ii to 
recover, if nothing went wrong. 

Honest Buddie was delighted. He chuckled over the 
little man's bed. He could not suppress his grins. He 
was a miracle of a child ! 'By George, it was the most 
extraordinary case he had ever met with ! It was all 
that bottle, and that miraculous child ; they seemed made 
for one another. From two o'clock last night, the action 
of his skin has commenced, and never ceased since. When 
he wiis here last night, the little fellow's pulse was a hun- 
dred and forty-four, and now down to ninety-seven ! 

The Doctor grew jocular ; and who can resist a doctor's 



WYLDER'S HAJ^D. 451 

jokes, when they garnish such tidings as he was telling. 
Was ever so pleasant a doctor ! Laughter through tears- 
greeted these pleasantries ; and, oh, such transports of 
gratitude broke forth when he was gone ! 

It was well for Driver, the postmaster, and his daughters, 
that all the circulars made up that day in Brandon Hall 
were not despatched through the Gylingden post-office. It 
was amazing how so many voters could find room in one 
county. Next day, it was resolved, the Captain's personal 
canvass was to commence. The invaluable Wealdon had 
run jthrough the list of his to-morrow's visits, and given 
him Ian inkling of the idiosyncrasies, the feuds and the 
likings of each elector in the catalogue. "Busy times, 
sir!" Tom Wealdon used to remark, with. a chuckle, 
from time to time, in the thick of the fuss and conspiration 
which was the breath of his nostrils; and, doubtless, so 
they are, and were, and ever will be, until the time-honor- 
ed machinery of our election system has been overhauled, 
and adapted to the civilisation of these days. 

Captain Brandon Lake was as much as possible at head 
quarters in these critical times ; and, suddenly, Mr. Crump, 
the baker, and John Thomas, of the delft, ironmongery, 
sponge, and umbrella shop, at the corner of Church 
Street, in Gylingden, were announced by the fatigued 
servant. They bowed, and stood, grining, near the door ; 
and the urbane and cordial Captain, Avith all a candidate's 
good fellowship, shook them both by the hands, and heard 
their story ; and an exciting one it was. 

Sir Harry Bracton had actually invaded the town of 
Gylingden. There was a rabble of the raff of Queen's 
Bracton along with him. He, with two or three young 
swells by him, had made a speech, from his barouche, 
outside the " Silver Lion," near the Green; and he was 
now haranguing from the steps of the Court House. They 



452 WYLDER'S HAND. 

had a couple of flags, and some music. It was " a 
regular, planned thing ; " for the Queen's Bracton people 
had heen dropping in an hour before. The shopkeepers 
■were shutting their windows. Sir Harry was " chaflSng 
the Capting," and hitting him very hard " for a hupstart " 
— and, in fact, Crump was more particular in reporting 
the worthy Baronet's language than was absolutely ne- 
cessary. And it was thought that Sir Harry was going 
to canvass the town. 

The Captain was very much obliged, indeed, and begged 
they would go into the parlor, and take luncheon ; and, 
forthwith, Wealdon took the command. The gamekeepers, 
the fifty haymakers in the great meadow, they were to 
enter the town from the top of Church-street, where they 
were to gather all the boys and blackguards they could. 
The men from the gas-works, the masons, and blacksmiths, 
were to be marched in by Luke Samways. Tom Wealdon 
would, himself, in passing, give the men at the coal-works 
a hint. Sir Harry's invasion was the most audacious 
thing on record ; and it was incumbent on Gylingden to 
make his defeat memorably disgraceful and disastrous. 

His barouche was to be smashed, and burnt on the green ; 
his white topcoat and hat were to clothe the effigy, which 
was to swing over the bonfire. The captured Bracton 
banners were to hang in the coffee-room of the " Silver 
Lion," to inspire the roughs. "What was to become of 
the human portion of the hostile pageant, Tom, being an 
official person, did not choose to hint. 

All these, and fifty minor measures, were ordered by 
the fertile Wealdon in a minute, and suitable messengers 
on the wing to see after them. The Captain, accompanied 
by Mr. Jekyl, myself, and a couple of the grave scriveners 
from the next room, where to go by the back approach 
and Redman's Dell to the Assembly Rooms, which Crump 



WVLDER'S HAJVjO. 453 

and Thomas, already on their way in the fly, undertook to 
have open for their reception, and furnished with some 
serious politicians from the vicinity. From the ■windows, 
the Captain, thus supported, was to make his maiden 
speech, one point in which Tom Wealdon insisted upon, 
and that was an injunction to the " men of Gylingden " 
on no account to hreak the peace. " Take care to say it, 
and we'll have it well reported in the " Chronicle," and our 
lads won't mind it, nor hear it neither, for that matter." 

So, there was mounting in hot haste in the ■ courtyard 
of old Brandon, and a rather ponderous selection of 
walking-sticks by the politicians — of whom I was one — 
intended for the windows of the assembly room. 

Lake rode ; Tom Wealdon, myself, and two scriveners, 
squeezed into the dog-cart, which was driven by Jekyl, 
and away we went. A few minutes brought us into the 
Blackberry hollow, which debouches into Redman's Dell. 
Here, the road being both steep and rugged, our speed 
abated. The precipitous banks shut out the sunlight, 
except at noon, and the road through this defile, overhung 
by towering trees and rocks, was even now in solemn 
shadow. The cart-road leading down to Eedman's Dell, 
and passing the mills near Redman's Farm, diverges from 
the footpath with which we are so well acquainted, near 
that perpendicular block of stone which stands a little 
above the steps which the footpath here descends. 



CHAPTER LXXI. 

MAKE WTIDER'S HAND, 

Just at the darkest point of the road, a little above the 
rude column which I have mentioned, Lake's horse, a 



454 WVLDER'S HJIJ^D. 

young one, shied, stopped short, recoiling on its haunches, 
■and snorted fiercely into the air. At the same time, the 
two dogs which had accompanied us began to bark furiously 
beneath in the ravine. 

Lake plunged the spurs into his beast, which reared so 
straight that she toppled backward toward the edge of the 
ravine. 

" Strike her on the head; jump off," shouted Wealdon. 

But he did neither. 

" D — it ! put her head down ; lean forward," bellowed 
Wealdon again. 

But it would not do. With a crash among briars, and 
a heavy thump from beneath that shook the earth, the mare 
and her rider went over. A shout of horror broke from 
us all ; and Jekyl, watching the catastrophe, was very 
near pulling our horse over the edge, and launching us al- 
together, like the Captain, into the defile. 

In a moment more we were all on the ground, and 
scrambling down the- side of the ravine, among rocks, 
boughs, brambles, and ferns, in the deep shadows of the 
gorge, the dogs still yelling furiously from below. 

"Here he is," cried Jekyl. "How are you. Lake ? 
Much hurt, old boy ? By Jove, he's killed, I think." 

Lake lay about twelve feet below the edge. The 
mare, now lying near the bottom of the gorge, had, I 
believe, fallen upon him, and then tumbled over. 

Strange to say. Lake was conscious, and in a few seconds, 
he said, in reply to the horrified questions of his friend — 

" I'm all smashed. Don't move me ;" and, in a minute 
more — "Don't mind that d — d brute; she's killed. Let 
her lie." 

It appeared very odd, but so it was, he appeared eager 
upon this point, and, faint as he was, almost savage. 

Wealdon and I, however, scrambled down the bank. 



WVLDER'S HAJVJO. 455 

He was right. The mare lay stone dead, on her side, at 
the bottom. •He lifted her head, by the ear,, and let it fall 
back. 

In the meantime the dogs continued their unaccountable 
yelling close by. 

" What the devil's that ? " said Wealdon.^ 

Something like a stunted, blackened branch was sticking 
out of the peat, ending in a set of short, thcikish twigs. 
This is what it seemed. The dogs were barking at it. It 
was, really, a human hand and arm, disclosed by the slip- 
ping of the bank, undermined by the brook, which was 
swollen by the recent rains. 

The dogs were sniffing and yelping about it. 

" It's a hand ! " cried Wealdon, with an oath. 

"A hand?" I echoed. 

We were both peering at it, having drawn near, stoop- 
ing and hesitating as men do in a curious horror. , 

It was, indeed, a human hand and arm, disclosed from 
about the elbow, enveloped in a discolored coat-sleeve, 
which fell back from the limb, and the fingers, like it 
black, were extended in the air. Nothing more of the 
body to which it belonged, except the point of a knee, in 
stained and muddy trousers, protruding from the peat, 
was visible. 

It must have lain there a considerable time, for, not- 
withstanding the antiseptic properties of that sort of soil, 
mixed with the decayed bark and fibre of trees, a portion 
of the flesh of the hand was decomposed, and the naked 
bone disclosed. On the little finger something glimmer- 
ed dully. 

In this livid hand, rising from the earth, there was a 
character both of menace and appeal ; and on the finger, 
as I afterwards saw at the inquest, glimmered the talis- 
manic legend " Kesurgam — I will rise again ! " It was 



456 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

the corpse of Mark Wylder, which had lain buried here 
undiscovered for many months. A horrible odor loaded 
the air. Perhaps it was this smell of carrion, from which 
horses sometimes recoil with a special terror, that caused 
the swerving and rearing which ended so fatally. As yet 
we had no suspicion whose was the body thus unexpected- 
ly discovered. 

We beat off the dogs, and on returning to Lake, found 
Jekyl trying to raise him a little against a tree. We 
were not far from Kedman's Farm, and it was agreed that 
our best course would be to carry Lake thither at once by 
the footpath, and that one of us — Wealdon undertook 
this — should drive the carriage on, and apprising Rachel 
on the way of the accident which had happened, and that 
her brother was on his way thither, should drive on to 
Buddie's house, sending assistance to us from the town. 

It was plain that Stanley Lake's canvass was pretty well 
over. There was not one of us who looked at him that 
did not feel convinced that he was mortally hurt. I don't 
think he believed so himself then ; but we could not move 
him from the place where he lay without inflicting so much 
pain, that we were obliged to wait for assistance. 

" D — the dogs, what are they barking for ? " said Lake, 
faintly. Ho seemed distressed by the noise. 

" There's a dead body partly disclosed down there — 
some one murdered and buried ; but one of Mr. Juke's 
young men is keeping them off." 

Lake made an effort to raise himself, but with a grin 
and a suppressed moan he abandoned it. 

"Is there no doctor — I'm very much hurt?" said 
Lake faintly, after a minute's silence. 

We told him that Buddie had been sent for ; and that 
we only awaited help to get him down to Redman's Farm. 

When Rachel heard the clang of hoofs and the rattle 



WYLDER'S HAjVD. 457 

of the tax-carfc driving down the mill-road, at a pace so 
unusual, a vague augury of evil smote her. She was 
standing in the porch of her tiny house, and old Tamar 
was sitting knitting on the bench close by. 

" Tamar, they are galloping down the road, I think — 
what can it mean ? " exclaimed the young lady, scared she 
could not tell why ; and old Tamar stood up, and shaded 
her eyes with her shrunken hand. 

Tom Wealdon pulled up at the little wicket. He was 
pale. He had lost his hat, too, among the thickets. Al- 
together he looked wild. 

He put his hand to where his hat should have been in 
token of salutation, and said he — 

" I beg pardon. Miss Lake, ma'am, but I'm sorry to 
say your brother the Captain's badly hurt, and maybe you 
could have a shakedown in the parlor ready for him by the 
time I come back with the doctor, ma'am? " 

Rachel, she did not know how, was close by the wheel 
of the vehicle by this time. 

" Is it Sir Harry Bracton ? He's in the town, I know. 
Is Stanley shot ? " 

■ " Not shot ; only thrown, miss, into the dell ; his mare 
shied at a dead body that's there. You'd better stay 
where you are, miss ; but if you could send up some water, 
I think he'd like it. Going for the doctor, ma'am ; good- 
bye, Miss Lake." 

And away went Wealdon, wild, pale, and hatless, like 
a man pursued by robbers. 

" Oh ! Tamar, he's killed — Stanley's killed — I'm sure 
he's killed, and all's discovered " — and Rachel ran wildly 
up the hill a few steps, but stopped and returned as swiftly. 

" Thank God, miss," said old Tamar, lifting up her 
trembling fingers and white eyes to Heaven. " Better 
dead, miss, than living on in sin and sorrow, better dis- 
20 



458 WYLDER'S BAJVa. 

covered than hid by daily falsehood and cruelty. Oh ! . 
Master Stanley, my child ! " 

Rachel went into the parlor and kneeled down, with 
white upturned face and clasped hands. But she could 
not pray. She could only look her wild supplication ; — 
deliverance — an issue out of the terrors that beset her ; 
and, " oh ! poor miserable lost Stanley ! " It was just a 
look and an inarticulate cry for mercy. 

An hour after Captain Stanley Brandon Lake, whose 
" election address," was figuring that evening in the 
" Dollington Courier," and in the " County Chronicle," 
lay with his clothes still on, in the little drawing-room of 
Redman's Farm, his injuries ascertained, his thigh broken 
near the hip, and his spine fractured. No hope — no pos- 
sibility of a physical reascension, this time. 

Meanwhile, in the Blackberry Dell, Doctor Buddie was 
assisting at a different sort of inquisition. The two po- 
licemen who constituted the civil force of Gylingden, two 
justices of the peace, the Doctor, and a crowd of amateurs, 
among whom I rank myself, were grouped in the dismal 
gorge, a little to windward of the dead body, which fate , 
had brought to light, while three men were now employed 
in cautiously disinterring it. 

When the operation was completed, there remained no 
doubt whatever on my mind ; discolored and disfigured as 
were both clothes and body, I was sure that t\e dead man 
was no other than Mark Wylder. When the clay with 
which it was clotted was a little removed, it became in- 
dubitable. The great whiskers ; the teeth so white and 
even ; and oddly enough, one black lock of hair which he 
wore twisted in a formal curl flat on his forehead, remain- 
ed undisturbed in its position, as it waS fixed there at his 
last toilet for Brandon Hall. 

In the rude and shallow grave in which he lay, his 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 459 

purse was found, and some loose silver mixed in the mould. 
The left hand, on which Avas the ring of " the Persian 
magician," was bare ; the right gloved, with the glove of 
the other hand clutched firmly in it. 

The body was got up in a sheet to a sort of spring cart 
which awaited it, and so conveyed to the " Silver Lion," 
in Gylingden, where it was placed in a disused coach-house 
to await the inquest. There the examination was continu- 
ed, and his watch (the chain broken) found in his waist- 
coat pocket. In his coat-pocket were found (of course, 
in no very presentable condition) his cigar-case, his initials 
stamped on it, for Mark had, in his day, a keen sense of 
property, his handkerchief, also marked ; a pocket-book, 
Avith some entries nearly effaced ; and a letter unopened, 
and sealed with Lord Chelford's seal. The writing was 
nearly washed away, but the letters " Iwich," or " twich," 
were still legible near the corner, and it turned out to be 
a letter to Dulwich, which Mark Wylder had undertaken 
to put in the Gylingden post-office, on the last night on 
which he appeared at Brandon. 

The whole town was in a ferment that night. Great 
debate and conjecture in the reading-room, and even on 
the benches of the billiard-room. " The Silver Lion," 
did a great business that night. Mine bost might have 
turned a good round sum only by showing the body, were 
it not that Edwards, the chief policeman, had the keys- of 
the coach-house. Much to-ing and fro-ing there was be- 
tween the town and Redman's Farm, the respectable in- 
habitants all sending or going up to enquire how the Cap- 
tain was doing. At last Doctor Buddie officially interfer- 
ed. The constant bustle was injurious to his patient. An 
hourly bulletin up to twelve o'clock should be in the hall 
of the " Brandon Arms ; " and Redman's Dell grew quiet 
once more. 



460 WYLDER'S HAJSTD. 

When William Wylder heard the news, he fainted ; not 
altogether through horror or grief, though he felt both ; 
but the change in his circumstances was so amazing and 
momentous. It was a strange shock — immense relief — 
immense horror — quite overwhelming. 

Mark had done some good-natured things for him in a 
small five-pound way ; he had promised . him that loan, 
too, which would have lifted him out of his Slough of 
Despond, and he clung with an affectionate gratitude to 
these exhibitions of brotherly love. Besides, he had ac- 
customed himself — to regard Mark in the light of a great 
practical genius — he knew men so thoroughly — he un- 
derstood the world so marvellously ! The Vicar was not 
in the least surprised when Mark came in for a fortune. 
He had always predicted that Mark must become very 
rich, and that nothing but indolence could prevent his ul- 
timately becoming a very great man. The sudden and 
total disappearance of so colossal an object was itself amaz- 
ing. 

There was another person very strongly, though differ- 
ently, affected by the news. Under pretext of business 
at Naunton, Jos Larkin had driven off early to Five Oaks, 
to make inspection of his purchase. He dined like a king 
in disguise, at the humble little hostelry of Naunton 
Friars, and returned in the twilight to the Lodge, which 
he would make the dower-house of Five Oaks, with the 
Howard shield over the door. He was gracious to his do- 
mestics, but the distance was increased : he was nearer to 
the clouds, and they looked smaller. 

"Well, Mrs. Smithers," said he, encouragingly, his 
long feet on the fender, for the evening was sharp, and 
Mrs. S. knew that he liked a bit of fire at his tea — " any 
letters — any calls — any news stirring ? " 

" No letters, nor calls, sir, please, except the butcher's 
book. I s'pose, sir, you were viewing the body ? " 



WYLDER'S HJljrn. 461 

" What body ? " 

" Mr. Wylder's, please, sir." 

"The Vicar! " exclaimed Mr. Larkin, his smile of con- 
descension suddenly vanishing. 

" No, sir ; Mr. Mark Wylder, please ; the gentleman, 
sir, as was to 'ar married Miss Brandon." 

"What the devil do you mean, woman ? " ejaculated the 
attorney, his back to the fire, standing erect, and a black 
shadow over his amazed and offended countenance. 

" Beg your pardon, sir ; but his body's bin found, sir." 

" You mean Mr. Mark ? " 

"Yes, please, sir; in a hole near the mill road — it's 
up in the " Silver Lion" now, sir."- 

" It must be the Vicar's — it must," said Jos Larkin, 
getting his hat on, sternly, and thinking how likely he 
was to throw himself into the mill race, and impossible it 
was that Mark, whom he and Larcom had both seen alive 
and well last night — the latter, indeed, this morning — 
could possibly be the man. And thus confronting him- 
self, he met old Major Jackson on the green, and that 
gentleman's statement ended with the words : " and in an 
advanced stage of decomposition." 

" That settles the matter," said Larkin, breathing 
again, and with a toss of his head, and almost a smile of 
disdain : " for I saw Mr. Mark Wylder late last night at 
Shillingsworth." 

Leaving Major Jackson in considerable surprise, Mr. 
Larkin walked off to Edwards' dwelling, at the top of 
Church Street, and found that active policeman at home. 
In his cool, grand, official way, Mr. Larkin requested Mr. 
Edwards to accompany him to the " Silver Lion," where, 
in the same calm and commanding way, he desired him to 
attend him to view the corpse. In virtue of his relation 
to Mark Wylder, and of his position as sole resident legal 
practitioner, he was obeyed. 



462 WVLDER'S HAJ\rD. 

The odious spectacle occupied him for some minutes. 
He did not speak while they remained in the room. On 
coming out there was a black cloud upon the attorney's 
features, and he said, sulkily, to Edwards, who had turned 
the key iu the lock, and now touched his hat as he listen- 
ed, 

" Yes, there is a resemblance, but it is all a mistake. I 
travelled as far as Shillingsworth last night with Mr. Mark 
Wylder : he was perfectly well. This can't be he." 

But there was a terrible impression on Mr. Jos Lark- 
in's mind that this certainly was he, and with a sulky 
nod to the policeman, he walked darkly down to the Vi- 
car's house. The Vicar had been sent fcr to Naunton to 
pray with a dying person ; and Mr. Larkin, disappointed, 
left a note to state that in writing that morning, as he 
had done, in reference to the purchase of the reversion, 
through Messrs. Burlington and Smith, he had simply 
expressed his own surmises as to the probable withdrawal 
of the intending purchaser, but had received no formal, 
nor, indeed, any authentic information, from either the 
party or the solicitors referred to, to that effect. That he 
mentioned this lest misapprehension should arise, but 
not as attaching any importance to the supposed discovery 
which seemed to imply Mr. Mark Wylder's death. That 
gentleman, on the contrary, he had seen alive and well at 
Shillingsworth on the night previous ; and he had been 
seen in conference with Captain Lake at a subsequent 
hour, at Brandon. 

From all this the reader may suppose that Mr. Jos 
Larkin was not quite in a comfortable state, and he re- 
solved to get the deeds, and go down again to the Vicar's,, 
and persuade him to execute them. He could make Wil- 
liam Wylder, of course, do whatever he pleased. 

There were a good many drunken fellows about the 



WiTLDER'S HAJVD. 463 

town, but there was an end of election demonstrations in 
the Bi'andon interest. Captain Lake was not going in for 
that race ; he would be on another errand by the time the 
writ came down. 



CHAPTER LXXII. 

THE MASK FALLS. 

There was a " stop press " that evening in the county 
paper — "We have just learned that a body has been 
disinterred, early this afternoon, under very strange cir- 
cumstances, in the neighborhood of Gylingden ; and if the 
surmises which are afloat prove well-founded, the discovery 
will set at rest the speculations which have been busy re- 
specting the whereabouts of a certain gentleman of large 
property and ancient lineage, who, some time since, myste- 
riously disappeared, and will, no doubt, throw this county 
into a state of very unusual excitement. We can state, 
upon authority, that the coroner will hold his inquest on the 
body, to-morrow, at twelve o'clock, in the town of Gy- 
lingden." 

There was also an allusion to Captain Lake's accident 
— with the expression of a hope that it would " prove but 
a trifling one," and an assurance " that his canvass would 
not be prevented by it — although for a few days it might 
not be a personal one. But his friends, might rely on see- 
ing him at the hustings, and hearing him too, when the 
proper time arrived." 

It was quite well known, however, in Gylingden, by 
this time, that Captain La-ke was not to see the hustings 



464 WYLDER'S HAJVB. 

— that his spine was smashed — that he was lying on an 
extemporised bed, still in his clothes, in the little parlor 
of Redman's Farm — cursing the dead mare in gasps — 
railing at' everybody — shuddering ■whenever they at- 
empted to remove his clothes — hoping, in broken sen- 
tences, that his people would give Bracton a d — d good 
licking. ' Bracton's outrage was the cause of the entire 
thing — and so help him Heaven, so soon as he should be 
on his legs again, he would make him feel it, one way or 
other. 

Buddie thought he was in so highly excited a state, 
that his brain must have sustained some injury also. 

He asked Buddie about ten o'clock (having waked up 
from a sort of stupor) — " what about Jim Dutton ? " 
and then, whether there was not some talk about a body 
they had found, and what it was. So Buddie told him all 
that was yet known, and he listened very attentively. 

" But Larkin had been corresponding with Mark Wyl- 
der up to a very late day, and if this body has been so 
long buried, how the devil can it be he ? And if it be as 
bodies usually are after such a time, how can anybody 
pretend to identify it ? And I happen to know that Mark 
Wylder is living," he added, suddenly. 

The Doctor told him not to tire himself talking, and 
offered, if he wished to make a statement before a mag- 
istrate, to arrange that one should attend and receive it. 

" I rather dislike it, because Mark wants to keep it 
quiet ; but if, on public grounds, it is desirable, I will 
make it, of course. You'll use your discretion in men- 
tioning the subject." 

So the Captain was now prepared to acknowledge the 
secret meeting of the night before, and to corroborate the 
testimony of his attorney and his butler. 

Stanley Lake had now no idea that his injuries were 



WYLDER'S HjIJYD. 465 

dangerous. He said he had a bad bruise under his ribs, 
and a sprained wrist, and was a little bit shaken ; and he 
talked of his electioneering as only suspended for a day 
or two. 

Buddie, however, thought the case so imminent, that on 
his way to the " Brandon Arms," meeting Larkin, going, 
attended by his clerk, again to the Vicar's house, he stop- 
ped him for a moment, and told him what had passed, add- 
ing, that Lake was so frightfully injured, that he might 
begin to sink at any moment, and that by next evening, 
at all events, ho might not be in a condition to make^a 
deposition. 

" It is odd enough — very odd," said Larkin. " It was 
only an hour since, in conversation with our policeman, 
Edwards, that I mentioned the fact of my having myself 
traveled from London to Shillingsworth last night with Mr. 
Mark Wylder, who went on by train in this direction, I 
presume, to meet our unfortunate friend, Captain Lake, by 
appointment. Thomas Sleddon, of Wadding Hall — at 
this moment in the " Brandon Arms " — is just the man ; 
if you mention it to him, he'll go up with you to Ked- 
man's Farm, and take the deposition. Let it be a de- 
position, do you mind; a statement is mere hearsay." 

Comforted somewhat, reassured in a certain way, and in 

strong hopes that, at all events, such a muddle would be 

established as to bewilder the jury, Mr. Jos Larkin, with 

still an awful foreboding weighing at his heart, knocked 

at the Vicar's door, and was shown into the study. A 

solitary candle being placed, to make things bright and 

pleasant for the visitor, who did not look so himself, the 

Vicar, very pale, and appearing to have grown even thin- 

" ner since he last saw him, entered, and shook his hand 

with an anxious attempt at a smile, which faded almost 

instantly. 

20* 



466 WYLDER'S H^J\rx>. 

" I am so delighted that you have come. I have passed 
a day of such dreadful agitation. Poor Mark ! " 

" There is no doubt, sir, whatsoever that he is perfect- 
ly well. Three different persons — unexceptionable wit- 
nesses — can depose to having seen him last night, and 
he had a long conference with Captain Lake, who is by 
this time making his deposition. It is with respect to the 
other little matter — the execution of the deed of con- 
veyance to Messrs. Burlington and Smith's clients. You 
know my feeling about the note I wrote this morning a 
little — I will not say incautiously, because with a client 
of your known character and honor, no idea of the sort 
can find place — but I will say thoughtlessly. If there 
be any hanging back, or appearance of it, it may call down 
unpleasant — indeed, to be quite frank, ruinous — con- 
sequences, which, I think, in the interest of your family, 
you would hardly be justified in invoking upon the mere 
speculation of your respected brother's death." 

Tliere was a sovind of voices at the door. " Do come 
in — pray do," was heard in Dolly's voice. " Won't you 
excuse me, but pray do. Willie, darling, don't you wish 
him to come in? " 

"Most particularly. Do bee; of him, in my name — 
and I know Mr. Larkin would wish it so much." 

And so Lord Chelford, with a look which, at another 
time, would have been an amused one, quite conscious of 
the oddity of his introduction, came in and slightly salut- 
ed Mr. Larkin, who was for a few seconds pretty obvious- 
ly confounded, and with a pink flush all over his bald fore- 
head, tried to smile, while his hungry little eyes searched 
the Viscount with fear and suspicion. 

Larkin's tone was now much moderated. Any sort of 
dealing was good enough for the simple Vicar ; but here 
was the quiet, sag£i,cious peer, who had shown himself, on 
two remarkable committees, so quick and able a man of 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 



467 



business, and the picture of the Vicar's situation, and of 
the powers and "terrors of Messrs. Burlington and Smith, 
were to be drawn with an exacter pencil, and far more deli- 
cate coloring. . 

Lord Chelford listened so quietly that the tall attorney 
felt he was making way with him, and concluded his 
persuasion by appealing to him for an opinion. 

" That is precisely as I said. I knew my friend, Mr. 
Larkin, would be only too glad of an opinion in this dif- 
ficulty from you," threw in the Vicar. 

The opinion came — very clear, very quiet, very un- 
pleasant — dead against Mr. Larkin's view, and conclud- 
ing with the remark that he thought there was more in 
the affair than had yet come to light. 

" I don't see exactly how. my Lord,'" said Mr. Larkin, 
a little loftily, and redder than usual. 

" Nor do I; Mr. Larkin, at present; but the sum offer- 
ed is much too small, and the amount of costs and other 
drawbacks utterly monstrous, and the result is, after de- 
ducting all these claims, including your costs, Mr. Lar- 
kin"— 

Here Mr. Larkin threw up his chin a little, smiling, and 
waving his long hand, and saying, " Oh ! as to mme," in 
a way that plainly expressed, " They are merely put down 
for form's sake. It is playing at costs. You know Jos 
Larkin — he never so much as dreamed of looking for 
them." 

" There remain hardly nine hundred and fifty pounds 
applicable to the payment of the Reverend Mr. Wylder's 
debts — a sum which would have been ample, before this 
extraordinary negatiation was commenced, to have extricat- 
ed him from all his pressing difficulties, and which I would 
have J)een only too happy at being permitted to advance 
and which, and a great deal more. Miss Lake, whose con- 



468 WYLDER'S H.iJ\ru. 

duct has been more than kind — quite noble — wished to 
place in your client's hands." 

" That," said the attorney, flushing a little, " I believe 
to have been technically impossible ; and it was accompani- 
ed by a proposition which was on other grounds untena- 
ble." 

" You mean Miss Lake's proposed residence here — an 
arrangement, it appears to me, every way most desira- 
ble." 

" I objected to it on, I will say, moral grounds, my 
Lord. It is painful to me to disclose what I know, but 
that young lady accompanied Mr. Mark Wylder, my 
Lord, in his midnight flight from Dollington, and remained 
in London, under, I presume, his protection for some 
time." 

" That statement, sir, is, I happen to know, utterly 
contrary to fact. The young lady you mention never 
even saw Mr. Mark Wylder, since she took leave of him 
in the drawing-room at Brandon ; and I state this not in 
vindication of her, but to lend weight to the caution I give 
you against ever again presuming to connect her name 
with your surmises." 

The peer's countenance was so inexpressibly stern, and 
his eyes poured such a stream of fire upon the attorney, 
that he shrank a little, and looked dpwn upon his great 
fingers which were drumming, let us hope, some sacred 
music upon the table. 

"I am truly rejoiced, my Lord, to hear you say so. 
Except to the young party herself, and in this presence, I 
have never mentioned it ; and I can show you the evidence 
on which my conclusions rested." 

" Thank you — no sir ; my evidence is conclusive." 

I don't know what Mr. Larkin would have thought of 
it ; it was sipiply Rachel's letter to her friend "Dolly 
Wylder op the subject of the attorney's conference with 



WVLDER'S HAJVJD. 469 

her at Redman's Farm. . It was a frank and passionate 
denial of the slanderj breathing undefinably, but irresisti- 
bly, the spirit of truth. 

" Then am I to understand, in conclusion," said the 
attorney, " that defying all consequences, the Rev. Mr. 
Wylder refuses to execute the deed of sale ? " 

" Certainly," said Lord Chelford, taking this reply upon 
himself. 

" You know, my dear Mr. Wylder, I told you from the 
first that Messrs. Burlington and Smith were, in fact, a 
very sharp house ; and I fear they will execute any powers 
they possess in the most summary manner." The attor- 
ney's eye was upon the Vicar as he spoke, but Lord Chel- 
ford answered. 

" The powers you speak of are quite without parallel 
in a negotiation to purchase ; and in the event of their 
hazarding such a measure, the Rev. Mr. Wylder will ap- 
ply to a court of equity to arrest their proceedings. My 
own solicitor is retained in the case." 

Mr. Larkin's countenance darkened and lengthened 
visibly, and his eyes assumed their most unpleasant ex- 
pression, and there was a little pause, during which, for- 
getting his lofty ways, he bit his thumb-nail rather vi- 
ciously. 

" Then I am to understand, my Lord, that I am super- 
seded in the management of this case ? " said the attorney 
at last, in a measured way, which seemed to say, " you 
had better think twice on this point." 

" Certainly, Mr. Larkin," said the Viscount. • 

" I'm not the least surprised, knowing, I am sorry to 
say, a good deal gf the ways of the world, and expecting 
very little gratitude, for either good will or services." 
This was accompanied with a melancholy sneer directed 
full upon the poor Vicar, who did not half understand the 
situation, and Ipoked rather guilty and frightened. " The 



470 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

Rev. Mr. Wjlder very well knows with what reluctance I 
touched the case — a nasty case ; and I must be permitted 
to add, that I am very happy so be quite rid of it, and 
only regret the manner in which my wish has been antici- 
pated, a discourtesy which I attribute, however,, to female 
influence." 

The concluding sentence was spoken with a vile sneer 
and a measured 'emphasis directed at Lord Chelford, who 
colored with a sudden access of indignation, and stood stern 
and menacing, as the attorney, with a general bow to the 
company, and a lofty nonchalayice, made his exit from the 
apartment. 

Captain Lake was sinking very fast next morning. He 
made a statement to Chelford, who was a magistrate for 
the county, I suppose to assist the coroner's inquest. He 
said that on the night of Mark Wylder's last visit to 
Brandon, he had accompanied him from the Hall ; that 
Mark had seen some one in the neighborhood of Gylingden, 
a person pretending to be his wife, or some near relative 
of hers, as well as he, Captain Lake, could understand, 
and was resolved to go to London privately, and have the 
matter arranged there. He waited near the " "White 
House," while he, Stanley Lake, went to Gylingden and 
got his tax-cart at his desire. He could give particulars 
as to that. Captain Lake overtook him, and he got in 
and was driven to Dollington, where he took the up-train. 
That some weeks afterwards he saw him at Brighton ; and 
the night before last, by appointment, in the grounds of 
Brandon ; and that he understood Larkin had some lights 
to throw upon the same subject. 

The jury were not sworn until two o'clock. The cir- 
cumstances of the discovery of the body were soon estab- 
lished. But the question which next arose was very per- 
plexed — was the body that of Mr. Mark Wylder ? There 
could be no doubt as to a general resemblence ; but, though 



WVLDER'S HAJVJi. 471 

marvellously preserved, in its then state, certainty was 
hardly attainable. But there was a perfectly satisfactory 
identification of the dress and properties of the corpse as 
those of Mr. Mark Wylder. On the other hand there 
was the testimony of Lord Chelford, who put Captain 
Lake's deposition in evidence, as also the testimony of 
Larkin, and the equally precise evidence of Larcom, the 
butler. 

The proceedings had reached this point when an occur- 
rence took place which startled Lord Chelford, Larkin, 
Larcom, and every one in the room who was familiar with 
Mark Wylder's appearance. 

A man pushed his way to the front of the crowd, and 
for a moment it seemed that Mark Wylder stood living 
before them. 

" Who are you ? " said Lord Chelford. 

" Jim Button, sir ; I come by reason of what I read 
in the ' Chronicle ' over night, about Mr. Mark Wylder 
being found." 

" Do you know anything of him ? " asked the Coroner. 

" Nowt," answered the man bluffly, ".only I writ to 
Mr. Larkin there, as I wanted to see him. I remember 
him well when I was a boy. I seed him in the train from 
Lunnon t'other night ; and he seed me on the Shillings- 
worth platform, and I think he took me for some one else, 
I was comin' down to see the Captain at Brandon — and 
seed him the same night." 

" Why have you come here? " asked the Coroner. 

" Thinkin' I might be mistook," answered the man. 
" I was twice here in England, and three times abroad." 

"For whom?" 

" Mr. Mark Wylder," answered he. 

" It is a wonderful likeness," said Lord Chelford. 

Larkin stared at him with his worst expression ; and 
Larcom, I think, thought he was the Devil. 



4T2 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

I was as much surprised as any for a few seconds. But 
there were points of difference — Jim Dutton was rather 
a taller and every way a larger man than Mark Wylder. 
His face, too, was broader and coarser, but in features and 
limbs the relative proportions were T(;onderfulIy preserved. 
It was such an exaggerated portrait as a rustic genius 
might have executed upon a sign-board. He had the same 
black, curly hair, and thick, black whiskers ; and the style 
of his dress being the same, helped the illusion. In fact, 
it was a rough, but powerful likeness — startling at the 
moment — unexceptionable at a little distance — but 
which foiled on a nearer and exacter examination. There 
was, beside a scar, which, however, was not a very glar- 
ing inconsistency, although it was plainly of a much old- 
er standing than the date of Mark's disappearance. 
All that could be got from Jim Dutton was that " he 
thought he might be mistook," and so attended. But re- 
specting Mr. Mark Wylder he could say " nowt." He 
knew " nowt." 

Lord Chelford was called away this moment by an ur- 
gent note. It was to request his immediate attendance at 
Redman's Farm, to see Captain Lake, who was in a most 
alarming state. The hand was Dorcas's — and Lord 
Chelford jumped into the little pony carriage which await- 
ed him at the door of the " Silver Lion." 

When he reached Redman's Farm, Captain Lake could 
not exert himself sufficiently to speak for nearly half-an 
hour. At the end of that time he was admitted into the 
tiny drawing-room in which the Captain lay. He was 
speaking with difficulty. 

" Did you see Buddie, just now ? " 

" No, not since morning." 

"He seems to have changed — bad opinion — unless 
he has a law object — those d — d doctors — never can 
know. Dorcas thinks — I'll do no good. Don't you 



WYLDER'S HAJVD. 473 

think — he may have an object — and not believe I'm in 
much danger ? You don't ? " 

Lake's hand, with which he clutched and pulled Chel- 
ford's, was trembling. 

" You must reflect, my dear Lake, how very severe 
are the injuries you have sustained. You certainly are 
in danger — great danger." 

Lake became indescribably agitated, and uttered some 
words, not often on his lips, that sounded like desperate 
words of supplication. Not that seaworthy faith which 
floats the spirit through the storm, but fragments of its 
long-buried wreck rolled up from the depths and flung 
madly on the howling shore. 

" I'd like to see Rachel," at last he said, holding Chel- 
ford's hand in both his, very hard. " She's clever — and 
I don't think she gives me up yet, no — a drink ! — and 
they think I'm more hurt than I really am — • Buddie, you 
know — only an apothecary — village ; " and he groaned. 

His old friend. Sir Francis Seddley, summoned by the 
telegraph, was now gliding from London along the rails, 
for Dollington station ; but another — a pale courier — 
on the sightless coursers of the air, was speeding with a 
diiferent message to Captain Stanley Lake, in the small 
and sombre drawing-room in Redman's Dell. 

I had promised Chelford to run up to Redman's Farm 
and let him know if the jury arrived at a verdict during 
his absence. They did so ; finding that the body was that 
of Marcus Wylder, Esquire, of Raddiston, and " that he 
had come by his death in consequence of two wounds, in- 
flicted with a sharp instrument, in the region of the heart, 
by some person or persons unknown, at a period of four 
weeks since or upwards." 

Chelford was engaged in the sick room, as I understood, 
in conference with the patient. It was well to have heard, 



474 WYLDER'S H^J\rD. 

without procrastination, what he had to say ; for, next 
morning, at a little past four o'clock, he died. 

A nurse who had been called in from the county infir- 
mary, said he made a very happy ending. He mumbled 
to himself, in his drowsy state, as she was quite sure, in 
prayer ; and he made a very pertty corpse when he was 
laid out, and his golden hair looked so nice, and he was all 
so slim and shapely. 

Rachel and Dorcas were sitting in the room with him 

— not expecting the catastrophe then. Both tired ; both 
silent ; the nurse dozing a little in her chair, near the 
bed's-head ; and Lake said, in his clear, low tone, on a 
sudden, just as he spoke when perfectly well — 

" Quite a mistake, upon my honor." 
As a clear-voiced sentence sometimes speaks out in 
sleep, followed by silence, go no more was heard after this 

— no more for ever. 'The nurse was the first to perceive 
" the change." 

" There's a change, ma'am " — and there was a pause. 
" I'm afraid, ma'am, he's gone," said the nurse. 

Both ladies, in an instant, were at tha bedside, looking 
at the peaked and white countenance which was all they 
were ever again to see of Stanley ; the yellow eyes and 
open mouth. - 

Rachel's agony broke forth in a loud, wild cry. All 
was forgotten and forgiven in that tremendous moment. 

" Oh ! Stanley, Stanley ! — brother, oh, brother ! " 

There was the unchanged face, gaping its awful farewell 
of earth. All over ! — never to stir more. 

'■' Is he dead?" said Dorcas, with the peculiar sfern- 
ness of- agony. 

There could be no doubt. It was a sight too familiar 
to deceive the nurse. 

And Dorcas closed those strange, wild eyes that had so 
fatally fascinated her, and then she trembled, without 



WYLDER'S HAjVU. - 475 

spealiing or shedding a tear. Her looks alarmed the 
nurse, who, with Rachel's help, persuaded her to leave 
the room. And then came one of those wild scenes 
which close .such tragedies — paroxysms of despair and 
frantic love, over that worthless young man who lay dead 
below stairs ; such as strike us sometimes with a desolate 
scepticism, and make us fancy that all affection is illusion, 
and perishable with the deceits and vanities of earth. 



CHAPTER LXXIII. 

WE TAKE LEAVE OP OUR FRIENDS. 

The story which, in his last interview with Lord Cbel- 
ford, Stanley Lake had related, was, probably, as near 
the truth as he was capable of telling. 

0(1 the night when Mark Wylder had left Branr 
don in his company they had some angry talk ; Lake's 
object being to induce Mark to abandon his engagement 
with Dorcas Brandon. He told Stanley that he would 
not give up Dorcas, but that he. Lake, must fight him, 
.and go to Boulogne for the purpose, and they should ar- 
range matters so that one or other must fall. Lake 
laughed quietly at the proposition, and Mark retorted by 
telling him he would so insult him, if he declined, as to 
compel a meeting. When they reached that lonely path 
near the flight of stone steps, Stanley distinctly threaten- 
ed his companion with a disclosure of the scandalous in- 
cident in the card-room of the club, which he afterwards 
related, substantially as it had happened, to Jos Larkin. 
When he took this decisive step, Lake's nerves were 
strung to a high pitch of excitement. Mark Wylder, he 



476 , WYLDER'S HAND. 

knew, carried pistols, and, all things considered, he thought 
it just possible he might use them. He did not, but he 
struck Lake with the back of his hand in the face, and 
Lake, who walked by his side, with his fingers on the han- 
dle of a dagger in his coat pocket, instantly retorted with 
a stab, which he repeated as Mark fell. 

He solemnly averred that he never meant to have used 
the dagger, except to defend his life. That he struck in 
a state of utter confusion, and when he saw Mark dead, 
with his feet on the path, and his head lying over the 
edge, he would have given a limb almost to bring him 
back. The terror of discovery instantly supervened. 

He propped the body against the bank, and tried to 
stanch the bleeding. But there could be no doubt that 
he was actually dead. He got the body easily down the 
nearly precipitous declivity. Lake was naturally by no 
means wanting in resource, and a sort of coolness, which 
supervened when the momentary distraction was over. 

He knew it would not do to leave the body so, among 
the rocks and brambles. He recollected that only fifty 
yards back they had passed a spade and pick, lying, with 
some other tools, by the side of the path, near that bit 
of old wall which was being removed. Like a mandoino; 
things in a dream, without thought or trouble, only wait- 
ing and listening for a moment before he disturbed them, 
he took away the implements which he required ; and 
when about to descend, a sort of panic and insurmountable 
disgust seized him ; and in a state of supernatural dismay, 
he felt for a while disposed to kill himself. In that state 
it was he reached Redman's ^arm, and his interview with 
Rachel occurred. It was the accidental disclosure of the 
blood, in which his shirt sleeve was soaked, that first 
opened Rachel's eyes to the frightful truth. 

After her first shock, all her terrors were concentrated 
on the one point — Stanley's imminent danger. He must 



WVLDER'S HAJVD. ^*11 

be saved. She made him return ; she even accompanied 
him as far as the top of the rude flight of steps, I have 
mentioned so often, and there awaited his return — : the 
condition imposed by his cowardice — and made more 
dreadful bj the circumstance that they had heard retreat- 
ing footsteps along the walk, and Stanley saw the tall 
figure of Uncle Julius, or Lome, as he called himself, 
turning the far corner. 

There was a long wait here, lest he should return ; but 
he did not appear, and Stanley — "though I now believe 
observed by this strange being — executed his horrible 
task, replaced the iitplements, and returned to Rachel, 
and with her to Redman's Farm ; where — his cool cun- 
ning once more ascendant — he penned those forgeries, 
closing them with Mark Wylder's seal, which he compelled 
his sister to post in London — quite unconscious of all 
but that their despatch by post, at the periods pencilled 
upon them, was essential to her wretched brother's escape. 
It was the success of this, his first stratagem, which sug- 
gested that long series of frauds which, with the aid of 
Jim Dutton, selected for his striking points of resemblance 
to Mark Wylder, had been carried on with such consum- 
mate art in a difierent field. 

It was Lake's ungoverned fury, when Larkin discover- 
ed the mistake in posting the letters in wrong succession, 
which so nearly exploded his ingenious system. He wrote 
in terms which roused Jim Button's wrath. Jim had been 
spinning theories about the reasons of his mysterious, 
though very agreeable occupation, and announced them 
broadly in his letter to Larkin. But he had cooled by 
the time he reached London, and the letter from Lake, re- 
ceived at his mother's, and appointing the meeting at Bran- 
don, quieted that mutiny. 

I never heard that Jim gave any member of the family 
the least trouble afterward. He handed to Lord Chelford 



478 WVLDER'S HAJVD. 

a parcel of those clever and elaborate forgeries, -witli ■which 
Lake had last furnished him, -with a pencilled note on 
each, directing the date and town at which it was to be 
despatched. Years after, when Jim was emigrating, I 
believe Lord Cbelford gave him a handsome present. 

Lord Chelford was advised by the friend whom he con- 
sulted that he need not make those painful particulars 
public, affecting only a dead man, and leading to no result. 

Lake admitted that Rachel had posted the letters in 
London, believing them to be genuine, for he pretended 
that they were Wylder's. It is easy to look grave over 
poor Eachel's slight, and partly unconscious, share in the 
business • of the tragedy. But what girl of energy and 
strong affections would have had the inelancholy courage 
to surrender her brother to public justice under the cir- 
cumstances? Lord Chelford, who knew all, says that 
she " acted nobly."' 

The good Vicar is a great territorial magnate now; but 
his pleasures and all his ways are still simple. He never 
would enter Brandon as its master, and never will, during 
Dorcas Brandon's lifetime. And although with her friend, 
Rachel Lake, she lives abroad, chiefly in Italy and Swit- 
zerland, Brandon Hall, by the command of its proprietor, 
lies always at her disposal. 

I don't know whether Rachel Lake will ever marry. 
The tragic shadow of her life has not chilled Lord Chel- 
ford's strong affection. Neither does the world know or 
suspect anything of the matter. Old Tamar died three 
years since, and lies in the pretty little churchyard of 
Gylingden. And Mark's death is, by this time, a nearly 
forgotten mystery. 

Jos Larkin's speculations have not turned out luckily. 
The trustees of Wylder, a minor, tried, as they were ad- 
vised they must, his title to Five Oaks, by ejectment. A 
point had been overlooked — as sometimes happens — and 



WYLDER'S HMJVD. 479 

Jos Larkin was found to have taken but an estate for the 
life of Mark Wylder, -which terminated at his decease. 
The point was carried on to the House of Lords, but the 
decision of " the court below" was ultimately afiSrmed. 

The flexible and angry Jos Larkin then sought to re- 
coup himself out of the assets of the deceased Captain ■; 
but here he failed. In his cleverness — lest the inade- 
quate purchase-money should upset his bargain — he 
omitted the usual covenant gauranteeing the vendor's title 
to sell the fee-simple, and regited, moreover, that, grave 
doubts existing on the point, it was agreed that the sum 
paid should not exceed twelve years' purchase. Jos then 
could only go upon the point that it was known to Lake 
at the period of the sale that Mark Wylder was dead. 
Unluckily, however, for Jos's case, one of his clever let- 
ters, written during the negotiation, turned up and was 
put in evidence, in whicli he pressed Captain Lake with 
the fact that he, the purchaser, was actually in possession 
of information to the effect that Mark was dead, and that 
he was, therefore, buying under a liability of having his 
title litigated, with a doubtful result, the moment he should 
enter into possession. This shut up the admirable man, 
who next tried a rather bold measure, directed against the 
Reverend William Wylder. A bill was filed by Messrs. 
Burlington and Smith, to compel him to execute a convey- 
ance to their client — on the terms of the agreement. 
The step was evidently taken on the calculation that ' he 
would strike, and offer a handsome compromise ; but Lord 
Cholford was at his elbow — the suit was resisted. Messrs. 
Burlington and Smith did not care to run the risk which 
Mr. Larkin behind the scenes, invited them to accept for 
his sake. There was first a faltering ; then a bold re- 
nunciation and exposure of Mr. Jos Larkin by the firm, 
who, though rather lamely, exonerated themselves as hav- 
ing been quite taken in by the Gylingden attorney. 



480 WYLDER'S HAJVD. 

Mr. Jos Larkin had a holy reliance upon his religious 
reputation, which had always stood him in stead. But a 
worldly Judge will sometimes disappoint the expectations 
of the Christian suitor ; and the language of the Court, in 
commenting upon Mr. Jos Larkin, was, I am sorry to say, 
in the highest degree offensive — " flagitious," " fraud- 
ulent," and kindred epithets, were launched against that 
tall, hald head, in a storm that darkened the air and ob- 
literated the halo that usually encircled it. He was dis- 
missed, in a tempest, with costs. He vanished from court, 
like an evil spirit, into the torture-ciiamber of taxation. 

But the cup of his tribulation was not yet quite full. 
Jos Larkin's name was ultimately struck from the roll of 
solicitors and attorneys, and there were minute and merci- 
less essays in the papers, surrounding his disgrace with a 
dreadful glare. People say he has not enough left to go 
on with. He had lodgings somewhere near Richmond, as 
Howard Larkin, Esq. and is still a religious character. 

Some summers ago, I was, for a few days, in the won- 
drous city of "Venice. Gliding near the Lido — where 
so many rings of Doges lie lost beneath the waves — I 
heard the pleasant sound of female voices upon the water, 
and then, with a sudden glory, rose a sad, wild hymn, like 
the musical wail of the forsaken sea : — 

The spouseless Adriatic mourns her lord. 

The song ceased. The gondola which bore the musicians 
floated by — a slender hand over the gunwale trailed its 
fingers in the water. Unseen, I saw. Rachel and Dor- 
cas, beautiful in the sad moonlight, passed so near we could 
have spoken — passed me like spirits, never more, it may 
be, to cross my sight in life. 

THE END.